Winter bird watching is very enjoyable as they are so much easier to see. There are few things as beautiful as a cardinal in a snow covered tree or bush. There are many things you can do to help our feathered friends at this time of year. By providing food, water, and shelter you will be doing just that.
Placement of feeders and bird baths is important. Sheltered locations are best as it protects the birds from severe winds. If feeders can be placed by evergreens, this will help them escape from predators as well. Having the feeders closer to the house will also make your viewing more enjoyable.
Winter is a good time to invest in some good bird feeders. You can offer squirrel-proof feeders, large hopper feeders, fly-through feeders, peanut feeders, and suet feeders. If you have feeders that aren’t squirrel proof, a baffle can be added to a pole or post. Keep feeding the finches too. Nyjer, Finch and Friends, or Fine Sunflower Hearts can be used in your finch feeders.
Ground feeders are also a great addition as they will accommodate the Juncos and American Tree Sparrows who prefer to eat close to the ground. Ground and tray feeders should be filled daily to avoid spoilage. One half to one scoop of seed is all you need for the day. A large cleaning brush can be used to brush off the snow before adding more seed the next morning. I use my birdbath cleaning brush for this purpose.
It is important to offer seeds that are rich in oils, such as black oil sunflower or sunflower hearts and peanuts. Suet is also important as it is high in fat and calories. Sunflower hearts are a good choice as they eliminate the mess under the feeder. If you are offering a mixed seed such as our Red Carpet or Fiesta, it’s a good idea to stamp the snow down with your feet after a snowfall. This gives the birds and squirrels access to any seed that has fallen to the ground.
Another very important thing to offer birds in the winter months in water. Many people think that birds should be fine with eating snow, but this expends energy which they need to stay warm. Bathing is important in the winter. Birds will bath as a way to preen their feathers. This helps their feathers stay positioned which avoids gaps. Feather gaps can cause a loss of body heat.
Adding a heated birdbath to your yard is a great idea. If you already have a bird bath that can be left out in the winter, consider adding a birdbath heater. Heated bird baths and bird bath heaters do not heat the water, but stop the water from freezing. They keep the water from freezing down to -23 degrees Celsius.
When the temperature drops below -23 you may see ice begin to form around the inside edges of the bird bath. The water will also evaporate faster than it does in the summer. I keep a 2-liter bottle by the back door to refill mine. It is important to keep the bird baths clean just as you do in the summer.
There are different bird behaviours you can watch for in the winter. You may see birds sunning themselves by turning their backs to the sun. This warms their feathers and heats their bodies. You may also think that birds look fatter in the winter. Feather fluffing is what causes this. Down feathers are puffed out to make air pockets which will help hold body heat. Birds will also tuck one leg close to their body, or tuck their bills into their shoulders.
Author – Jane Paradis
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Bird of the week – Northern Cardinal – check out cardinal products