The winter months can be a difficult time for birds when the weather is extremely cold and icy or the ground is snow-covered and food is scarce. Yes, life can be tough for birds with insects gone, water frozen, and shelter difficult to find. This is a good time to supplement nature’s food supply with high calorie foods to help our feathered friends. Oil sunflower seeds provide the best all around food source for the vast majority of birds. The outer shell is thinner than the striped sunflower shell and the kernel inside is larger than the striped-sunflower seed kernel. Another option is the shelled sunflower kernels, a favorite of numbers of birds. Suet is one of the best high calorie winter foods to tempt a number of birds from woodpeckers to chickadees. And finally, in one feeder, I cater to our three species of nuthatches, titmice, the woodpeckers, Carolina wrens, bluebirds and the occasional brown creeper that prefer this high protein mix.
Eastern bluebird (S. sialis)
We hang several large capacity tubular feeders suspended from high branches, provide a platform feeder, two domed bluebird feeders, a suet feeder and supply a sprinkling of feed over the ground for juncos, doves, finches, sparrows, pine siskins. Water is furnished by using a heating element for the pond that provides a hole in the ice.
According to Audubon, studies show that it’s a myth that feeding birds makes them dependent on feeders. It’s believed that perhaps only a quarter of a bird’s diet comes from feeders except in the harshest of weather conditions. The notion that feeding birds keeps them from migrating has also been debunked. According to Audubon, bird migration is triggered by changes in the length of the day, not the availability of food. Any bird that lingers past migration is either ill, injured or lacks the ability to migrate.
But feeding birds with seeds is only part of the picture. Improving landscape habitat is the most important part of inviting birds to your garden. Garden with berries in mind, evergreens for shelter from the winter weather, and a variety of nesting sites for spring and summer. Feeding the birds is a delightful and entertaining activity, bringing them up close and personal, enriching our lives and teaching us about more about the lives of these amazing garden friends.
Enjoy the photos in this post taken by our son who is home from college for the holiday.
Carolina chickadee (P. carolinensis) cracks open a sunflower seed
Dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis) is a ground feeder
Female northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)
Male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester