Providing birds what they need to survive
Posted: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 8:00 pm
Winter is prime time for attracting birds. Beckoning birds to the backyard in winter can be easier than in any other season if the items they need to weather and survive the coldest months are provided.
Scarcity of natural available food, cold temperatures and severe storms push bird mortality high all winter long. Residents can help birds meet their nutritional needs during wintertime, and will surely be rewarded with a diverse, frequent flock of feathered friends.
There’s lots of birdfeed to choose from, much of it is produced as a sideline business and can contain low quality fill that birds just won’t eat. Some birdfeed has even been identified as containing toxins known to be harmful to wildlife. Responsible research on bird feed choices will provide birds with the food they require and protect them from toxic chemicals.
Cole’s wild bird feed offers a wide variety of seed, suet and specialty products specifically formulated to attract birds. It’s entire line of products is all natural; seed is top of the crop pulls with absolutely no fillers, preservatives, a spokesman said.
Birding expert Elaine Cole offers these tips:
Feeding birds is by far the simplest way to attract them. Adding the best winter bird food choices to feeders when the temperatures drop will give birds the extra energy they need to survive even the worst weather. Foods high in oil and fat are the most popular winter picks.
• Black oil sunflower seeds — Seeds have slightly thinner shells and a higher oil content than other types of sunflower seeds, making them a more efficient and nutritious food. Offer them in platform, tube or hopper feeders to attract a wide range of hungry birds.
• Suet — For maximum calories, suet is an optimum winter food choice.
• Peanuts — From jays and titmice to nuthatches and chickadees, many backyard birds love this high-calorie, fat-rich nut. Because peanuts don’t freeze, they’re perfect for winter feeding.
• Niger — Also known as thistle seed is a favorite food for winter finches such as pine siskins, redpolls and goldfinches. Another oily seed that offers lots of calories, niger helps birds store fat they need to keep warm.
• Fruit — Many songbirds that favor fruit migrate in winter, but many other birds that stay in snowy areas year-round will also enjoy the treat. Offer chopped apples, orange wedges or banana slices, on platform feeders, spikes or nailed to trees. Chopped or dried fruit can also be added to suet mixtures.
• Seed mixes — For convenient and economical winter feeding; nothing beats a good-quality birdseed mix. While birds can probably tell a good mix just by looking at it, humans cannot. Choose a mix that features large proportions of sunflower seeds and millet, but avoid mixes with large proportions of unappetizing fillers such as wheat, milo and corn. Birds will pick out the yummy stuff and leave the filler — and a big mess — behind. Learn about seed mixes at www.coleswildbird.com.
Fresh, liquid, moving water using birdbath spritzers or fountains will readily attract many backyard birds in winter. Add a heater to the water supply and a number of birds will use it.
A cozy place to roost will keep backyard birds secure and comfortable even in the worst weather. Bird roost boxes and other shelters are essential to protect small birds from frigid, dropping temperatures. Offer birds a source of winter nesting material to use as insulation.
Just as backyard birds may be more desperate during the lean times of winter, so are predators such as cats and hawks. Position bird feeders in a safe place to protect them and pay attention to prints in the snow to learn what predators may be threatening the feeders.
Published in The Messenger 1.23.13