Thursday, 02 January 2020 13:32
By Peter Bowden | Home & Garden
Photos by Peter Bowden. Photos by Peter Bowden.

NOTHING livens up a cold winter day like wild birds flitting and darting to and from your bird feeder. Their bright colors and lively manner bring a bit of cheer to even the dreariest day. 

As difficult as winter’s weather has been for us, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like for the wild animals out there...especially the tiny birds.  To endure such unrelenting cold, winter birds need to stay active, and their activity is fueled by calories and protein. The trick to attracting birds is providing calories and protein in forms that they prefer.

Black Oil Sunflower is higher in calories per pound than Gray Striped Sunflower and I find that the smaller black seed are more easily handled by chickadees and other small birds.

The second most important food for wild birds is fine cracked corn.  Cracked corn appeals to ground/platform feeding birds like cardinals, doves and juncos.  When you shop for cracked corn, be sure you get FINE cracked corn.  Medium or coarse cracked corn is too large to be beneficial to small wild birds. 

Suet provides maximum calories to help birds stay warm and is a favorite of nuthatches and woodpeckers.  Suet comes in lots of flavors like peanut, fruit and nut, blueberry and more.  I like to buy the ten packs so I have a ready supply during these coldest days of winter. 

I’ve had my bird feeder up and filled for a couple of months now so it is time to bring it inside and give it a thorough cleaning.  We need to keep the feeders clean to keep the birds healthy. In the wild, bird diseases can’t spread easily from bird to bird since the food is spread all around and the birds have little common contact.  Our bird feeders attract all the birds to only a few feeding ports so it is important to keep those ports clean. They are all eating from the same plate so to speak so is best to keep that plate clean. When cleaning your feeder, pay close attention to the inside and outside of the feeding ports since this is where diseases can be spread from bird to bird.  An old toothbrush can come in handy for this.  After it’s clean, soak all the feeder’s parts in a mix of 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water.  This will kill any germs.  Let it dry thoroughly and reassemble. 

Make sure that you keep your feeders topped off.  Once you start feeding the birds, they become dependent on the supply you’ve been providing. This is the time they need the food the most.

During extended periods of sub-freezing weather, birds will have a hard time finding water.  If you provide fresh water, the traffic to your feeding stations will increase dramatically. You can refill the water source each day or use an electric birdbath warmer to keep ice from forming.  I only plug mine in during the very coldest days of winter. 


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