In winter, in many places, life is not easy. The birds are hungry and the snow is piling up. We all know now that birds can survive without our help in winter. Some ornithologists have even suggested that feeding birds is more beneficial for us (humans) than for them.
Either way, studies have shown that birds that have access to feeders in the winter survive at a higher rate than those that don’t.
The difference between the haves and the have-nots is not huge, but it is there. Feeding birds in winter, if done right, is good for them (and for us too).
How to help birds with the cold?
- Make sure the seeds are accessible and dry. Hopper or tube feeders protect seeds well from wet weather and distribute food as needed. Flush snow from platform feeders or clear a spot on the ground where you can spread seeds for ground-feeding species like sparrows or pigeons. If snow accumulation is a problem, protect feeders.
- Have more feeders ready in case of bad weather. You can use a larger capacity feeder, or more than one feeder, in case of bad weather. Not only will you give the birds another place to eat, more birds can eat at once, but it will also reduce your trips outside to refill feeders.
- Spread the seeds in sheltered places. Not all birds like feeders. Some species prefer to hide in bushes, brambles and other safe places. For these species, consider sprinkling a few seeds under their canopy, in their hedges and bushes, or even at the edge of a wooded area.
- Add energy-dense foods like bacon, leftover meat, and peanut butter. Fat is what gives birds the most energy in winter, and without enough energy to keep going, many songbirds would not survive a cold winter night. Tallow, meat scraps, and peanut butter provide fat for birds that eat them. If you don’t have a suitable feeder, use a mesh onion bag. Hang it from a tree branch or an iron feeding hook.
- Offer them mealworms on a plate or in a small bowl. Use a heavy plate so the wind can’t blow away the worms and the plate.
- Seal nest box vents with removable weatherstripping. Good ventilation is necessary on a hot summer day, but it is a real obstacle for birds seeking shelter in winter. Think about the quality of the birds in a well-closed house.
- Be prepared for weather changes. By watching the weather, you’ll know when bad weather is coming, and you can stock up on seeds, suet, and more. You may also be ready to do some of the activities mentioned above. On the contrary, when the good weather arrives, take the opportunity to clean and disinfect your feeders (one dose of bleach for nine doses of hot water). Whatever you do, don’t be totally caught out by the harsh winter weather. Birds don’t have to live off your feeder’s bounty, but it certainly makes life easier for them in the winter.