Winter is Coming – What Can I do to Help the Birds?

This fall we have been fortunate to enjoy lovely weather throughout the month of October and now well into November, but we all know this won’t last.  So how can we set up our yards to help our feathered friends get through the winter?

Let’s think about what seed we should be offering.  Providing birds with seeds that are high in calories gives them energy to survive the colder weather. Sunflower seeds are a favourite of all songbirds with choices of striped sunflower, black oil, and sunflower hearts.  The shell on striped sunflowers is harder than the shells of black oil which makes it difficult for smaller birds to access.  Shells of black oil sunflower are softer making it easier for birds to extract the inner seed.  If you want to keep it tidy, sunflower hearts are the best choice as the shells have been removed eliminating any mess under the feeder.

Peanut halves, which are peanuts out of the shell, are another good choice that are high in fat and calories.  Certain feeders are designed specifically for peanuts if you would like to add a separate feeder for this offering.  Peanut  feeders will attract hairy, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, as well as nuthatches, chickadees and blue jays.  If you have only one feeder, peanut halves can be mixed in with sunflower seeds providing the feeding portals on the feeder are large enough to allow both seeds to flow through without becoming clogged.

Suet cakes are a great source of energy for all birds.  These cakes can be offered in suet cages for clinging birds, or hopper feeders that have suet cages attached to either side.  Hopper feeders with this feature are a welcome sight for birds who are not comfortable clinging to suet cages.  Suet nuggets are another option for birds to enjoy.  The nuggets can be added to your seed feeder or fed independently in a mesh peanut feeder.

Last, but certainly not least, is water.  Birds need drinking water year round.  Natural water sources will freeze sending birds in search of water elsewhere.  Eating snow isn’t the best way for them to obtain water as they have to expend precious calories which they need to stay warm.  We can help by offering a heated bird bath, or by adding a bird bath heater to an existing bath.

Let’s keep our birds happy and healthy this winter by providing them with the resources they need to get through the upcoming months.

Happy Winter Birding!

By Jane Paradis

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