Three Easy Ways to Woo the Winter Birds
Dec 08, 2020
Have you noticed that your favorite birds stick around during the colder months of the year? Depending on where you live, many birds will stay year-round in your backyard, and some who flew north for the summer, have now returned to winter in your yard. Winter can be just as fulfilling for bird watching as the other seasons if you take a few simple steps to help the birds who share their interesting and inspiring lives with us.
1. Fill the Feeders. Give your backyard flock the energy to survive even the worst weather. Birds often rely most heavily on feeders in winter, when natural food sources are scarce. Add food high in oil and fat, such as suet, peanuts, sunflower seeds and nyjer to your feeders when the temperatures drop. You can also watch to see who is in your yard and tailor your backyard buffet to their needs. You will have more birds visit if you have trees and shrubs nearby for cover, as well as leaves/twigs on the ground for ground-feeders. Pro Tip: Move feeders a bit closer to your house so it’s easier to fill them in bad weather (three feet away from a window to help prevent window strikes).
2. Boost their Roost. Keep bird houses up; some birds use houses for roosting to escape periods of extreme cold. Woodpeckers, titmice, chickadees and bluebirds will roost in boxes during the winter. WBC’s houses are designed to insulate from wet weather, with slanted roofs and drainage holes, while the Convertible Bluebird Box (pictured at right) serves double duty as a roosting box in winter and nesting box in summer – just reposition the door opening and seal the vents. Adorable, woven roosting pockets make for cozy cold weather accommodations for smaller birds, with ventilation and drainage built into the design. Pro Tip: Be sure to mount your houses six feet off the ground in an open area, facing away from the wind.
3. Draw a Warm Bath. Turn a b-r-r-r-r-rdbath into a bird jacuzzi. Water is a year-round necessity for birds. Since feathers keep them warm in the coldest weather, birds need water to keep this natural insulation clean. Plus, having a water feature like a bird bath will increase the variety of birds you’ll see, including those who don’t regularly visit bird feeders! An author on bird feeding recorded 75 different bird species at his birdbaths vs. 45 at the feeders.* Adding a heating element like a bird bath deicer – or using a heated bath – ensures a continuous water supply. Pro Tip: Placing a bath in a sunny spot will increase visibility and help keep the water liquid. For really cold weather, place a few stones or sticks on top that birds can use as perches while they drink.
Brighten the gloom of a cold, gray day with the sight of your feathered friends busily going about their lives, and marvel at how they adapt to survive the winter season. Your efforts to support them will bring you much pleasure and encouragement. Just think: if the birds can get through it, we can too!
*John Dennis, “Beyond the Bird Feeder,” 1991.