Feeding Birds in Winter
Posted on Dec 01, 2015 | by J Kirkpatrick
Winters, especially when they are severe, can be hard for wild birds. The food sources that were plentiful in the spring and summer have either died or gone dormant. Snow often covers the ground hiding potential food sources, and their water supply is often frozen. Birds given high quality, high-fat foods in the winter to help them generate enough body heat, have a better chance of survival.
Depending on the species, the preferred food may vary, but most birds do like Black Oil Sunflower Seeds. These are not the same as the ones you get at a baseball game. They have a thinner shell, are easier for birds to open, and have higher oil content. While more expensive, hulled sunflower seeds or seed chips might even be better in winter since the birds don’t have to expend the energy opening the seeds. Another benefit of the hulled seeds is there is less chance that they will be lost and eventually germinate. They should be protected from water and moisture though because they will spoil more quickly. Seeds can be offered in a tube, platform, or hopper feeder.
Suet is another option for feeding. Suet is beef fat that has been rendered down. You can do this yourself or you can purchase suet cakes specifically for birds. These are often incorporated with seeds or other goodies that birds like. Suet is best used during the colder months because it can melt in warm weather and go rancid. Suet is most often offered in special suet feeders made of metal.
Peanuts are a third option due to their high fat content. They won’t freeze in the winter so you can offer them whole or shelled. Either way, this Nuttery feeder would work perfectly. Conversely, peanut butter is another option which birds seem to like too.
Smaller birds like finches and pine siskins seem to prefer Nyjer or thistle seed. It can be offered in a thistle sock or mesh feeder. A plus about nyjer is that it is treated to prevent germination if spilled on the ground. Nyjer is usually offered in a thistle sock or mesh feeder.
Fruit is also a food most birds love. Apple or banana slices, oranges, melon, and dried fruit can all be put out for birds. Dried fruit can also be added to suet for a tasty treat. You can nail fruit to trees or leave it out for the birds, but a nifty fruit feeder works too.
To attract a wide variety of birds, consider offering a variety of different food. Over time you’ll learn what your backyard birds like best. To prevent disease, clean your feeder often and disinfect it with 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Also clear away the seed hulls left behind. And don’t forget to enjoy watching the birds as they feed. With just a little help, you can ensure that your birds weather the winter!