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A Beginner’s Guide to Winter Bird Feeding

In the midst of a chilly pandemic season, all feels right once we start bundling up and getting cozy with thick throws and a cup of hot cocoa. Your garden’s all ready for the cold, and so is your stockpile of soups in the kitchen. But wait, what about the birds?

Feeding birds in the winter is an activity every loving gardener swears by. No joy can compare these majestic little ones landing on your feeders, enjoying the feast you’ve laid out for them.

Why Feed the Birds in the Winter

1. Food is scarce during this time

Winter’s a tough time finding naturally-occurring foods for birds. Even if there are seeds available for their picking, they’re often blown away by the wind or the moisture makes them impossible to eat.

2. Birds need extra nutrients

Feeding birds during winter allows them to be healthier and more prepared for spring mating. The extra calories also make for stronger migration. Furthermore, being nourished helps them keep up with predators.

3. Water sources are frozen

Beyond seeds, providing water for birds during this season keeps them hydrated. Often times, birds aren’t able to freely drink water anywhere they want because sources have frozen up.

Tips for Winter Bird Feeding

Bird feeding on a bird feeder

1. Know what to feed them

Nourishing birds throughout the winter means considering the best food for them. Thankfully, there are plenty of inexpensive yet highly nutritious foods birds find irresistible, especially during this time of year.

Start off with a variety of seeds such as:

  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Nyjer seeds
  • Good mixed seeds
  • White milet seeds
  • Sorghum seeds
  • Striped or hulled sunflower seeds

Other bird feeds that bring them joy are:

  • Suet
  • Peanuts
  • Fruits (chopped apples, halved grapes, banana slices, orange wedges)
  • Cracked corn
  • Meal worms

2. Location, location, location

Whether you are using tube feeders or fly through feeders, what’s most important is where you put them. There are two things you need to keep in mind: Protecting the birds and protecting yourself.

If you live in an area where bears lurk, then the last thing you want is positioning your feeder too near your house. Make sure they’re strategically placed near bushes, so anytime birds need to fly off or hide, they have somewhere to go. Moreover, you have to think about squirrels, raccoons and other pests that may gobble everything up before the birds are fed. Place the feeders about 10 feet away from branches these pests can leap from. This way, birds are the only ones that have exclusive access.

3. Maintain your feed and feeders

You will quickly realize how picky birds can be. If you end up overfilling your feeders, the cold can freeze up the seeds or make them moist and inedible. Pour just the right amount at the right time. Storing seeds is also one more thing you need to be careful about. Keep them in a cool, dark and dry place away from pests and with proper sealing so moisture and mold stay out.

Also keep the feeders clean. Unkempt ones make the birds susceptible to contagious diseases that other birds may be carrying. Make sure you wash and wipe them dry before filling them up again.

Bird eating seeds in snow

4. Stamp snow down

There are times when birds choose not to feed directly off the platforms and tubes. They go and search on the ground. That’s why it’s important that you stamp the snow down under the feeder. This will make it much easier for them to find fallen feed.

Bird on a water feeder

5. Don’t forget about water

Whichever tray or container you choose to put the water in, be mindful of how you work with it during winter bird feeding season. Remember to break off the ice often because birds don’t have the strength to do this. If you can change it often, do so because water can still get dirty and can develop bacteria and algae during winter.

Feeding birds during the winter is unlike anything. It can give you that extra warm and fuzzy feeling you’re looking for, considering how tough this year has been. Just remember to keep these tips in mind, and find yourself the best view for this joyous spectacle.

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Fruits and vegetables being carried

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