As the planet warms, we are experiencing shifts in weather patterns that are downright bizarre. Even people who are fortunate enough to not have been directly hit by extreme natural events like catastrophic floods, droughts, or forest fires will still have to adjust in some way.
For instance, those who live in historically warmer regions and are now experiencing a chilly dip in temperature may wonder if they should still put feed in their bird feeders, whether their regular avian visitors will still frequent their yard, or if they should be prepared for different species to drop in as the weather changes.
Here are some tips for backyard birders of any level to make the most of their bird feeders, even in the coldest months of the year.
The most common bird species to visit your feeder when it’s cold outside (depending, of course, on climate, geography, and landscape) are finches, sparrows, titmice, jays, woodpeckers, chickadees, and cardinals. If you are in a northern region, you may be visited by pine grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks, and red crossbills, while southern birders will most likely have overwintering hummingbirds and warblers. However, as food sources become more unpredictable in the winter, it’s not uncommon to spot an unexpected bird, especially if you have an enticing bird feeding set up.
If you want to attract a wide variety of species to your yard, it’s best to have a wide variety of bird feeders, too.
Covered to protect seed
To make sure birds can get the most use out of your feeder, make sure they have a wide cover over feeding ports, perches, and dispensing trays so that the seed isn’t at risk of being buried by falling snow. Fly-through platform feeders do especially well during the winter season.
Make sure that the cover extends at least several inches over the edge of the feeder so that visiting birds are protected from the elements. If you already have a favorite feeder that doesn’t have a built-in cover, you can renovate it with wide baffles that will help keep snow and ice at bay.
Placement for good shelter
Situate your feeders close to the house where they will be at least partially sheltered from severe winds. This will also keep birds visible from inside your home, which is great for indoor bird watching. Just make sure that there are at least five feet between the feeder and a wall/window to minimize collisions. You can also place feeders near protective covers like hedges or a brush pile as this will not only shelter the birds from the cold but will offer them safety from predators.
This is more for the birder’s convenience than the birds’, as large-capacity feeders don’t need to be refilled as much. However, this is only recommended if the seed is protected from moisture. If not, then the birdseed is at risk of growing mold or fungus which is dangerous for birds to consume.
Cleanliness to protect birds
Natural food sources become scarce in the winter, so birds will often have to rely more on backyard feeders. To make sure you’re offering birds healthy sustenance that isn’t tainted by mold, mildew, or other unfavorable conditions, make sure to clean and sterilize your feeders regularly.
Ensure that you get rid of soggy seed or seed that’s been frozen in ice. Let the feeder dry completely before refilling, and make sure to wipe down perches, poles, and other parts of the feeder, too.
Insects are not as readily available in the colder months, so most birds will thrive on seeds. The best seeds to fill your feeders with will be high in fat or oil which will keep visiting birds satisfied and energized for the winter. Some good choices include:
- Black oil sunflower seed
- Hulled peanuts or peanut hearts
- Nyjer (thistle) seed
- Suet mixes with seeds or fruit
- Peanut butter
- White millet seed