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On Thin Ice: Helping Birds Weather the Cold

Helping birds stay warm At my house, we love birds and do our best to give them the best possible chance to survive the winter with the greatest ease. We have 8 feeders, 4 suet feeders, a brush pile and a heated bird bath. Even though they can survive the winter without us— I’m not sure we would survive the winter doldrums without them!

Tips to Help Your Birds Weather the Winter Cold

  • Create a brush pile or pile of sticks and branches to provide extra cover from harsh weather and predators. Disposing of your Christmas tree? Prop it up near your feeders to create wind screen and provide cover.
  • Provide high fat foods such as peanut butter, meat scraps and beef suet. High fat foods provide much-needed energy to survive the cold days and nights. Beef suet is cheap at the grocery store, about $1.00 per package. If you don’t have a suet feeder, you can use an onion bag. To feed peanut butter, drill one-inch holes in a foot-long section of a small log. Insert a screw eye into one end of the log. Smear peanut butter into the holes and suspend the feeder from the screw eye.
  • Birds need water to drink in the cold weather as we do. We frequently have a bunch of birds sitting on the rim of our heated bath drinking and socializing. The surface is warmer so it is a bit of a respite from the harsh temperatures.
  • Consider a heated bird bath. I think we paid about $80 for ours, but we purchased it at a specialty bird store, so it probably can be had for less online. Allegedly there is anecdotal evidence that birds will bathe in bird baths in sub-zero weather. In that case, it would be very bad, if not fatal if ice formed on the wings before they had a chance to dry. Personally, I have not ever witnessed a bird bathing in our heated bird bath. If this is a concern of yours you can place some rocks in the bath to eliminate room for bathing but leaving enough water for drinking.Help birds in the winter
  • Sprinkle some feed on the ground in covered areas such as under your deck, on the edge of hedges and bushes and the wood line for the birds that prefer skulking around on the ground and won’t frequent your feeder.

  • Put some fresh wood shavings (not sawdust, it retains too much moisture) or dry grasses in your bird boxes for the winter to encourage roosting. Birds love a warm and cozy spot to winter just as we do.

Want to really help birds locally and globally, especially with the Trump administration’s recent roll back of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in favor of big energy? Give generously to the National Audubon Society, bird champions since 1896. Give nationally or to your local chapter.

Photo credit: Erin King, U.S.F.W.S.

 

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