Most people are unaware that not all birds fly south for the winter. In fact, some of the most colorful and lyrical songbirds, including jays, woodpeckers and chickadees, stay in the same area throughout the entire year. Wild birds use a variety of techniques to stay warm during the cold winter months; however, while they are equipped to withstand most winter weather, survival can be made easier by providing food, a heated, open source of water and protection from freezing temperatures with natural plant cover or a roosting box. These are only some steps to take in order to attract feathered guests into the backyard this winter.
First and foremost, food is the most crucial element for a bird’s winter survival. Providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need to stay warm will help immensely. Also, to stay warm, birds will expend energy very quickly, some losing up to 10 percent of their body weight on extremely cold nights. In these cases, an ample supply of high-calorie foods, such as black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet can be vital to a wild bird’s survival.
In addition to supplying birds with food, birds also need a place to bathe when temperatures drop. Providing birds with an open water source will allow them to clean their feathers, which ultimately help birds stay warm. Also, a birdbath with open water is often the only way for some birds to drink, when it’s cold.
Many bird enthusiasts will use birdbath heaters to keep the water thawed during extensive below freezing temperatures. By either adding a heater to the water source or purchasing a birdbath with a built in heater, a bird bath in the winter has the potential to attract as many birds as bird food!
Finally, a natural plant cover or roosting box is also advised to help protect birds from harsh winters. By providing birds with these shelter options, you are also helping them secure safety from predators.
For more advice on caring for backyard birds in cold weather, contact the Certified Bird Feeding Specialists at Wild Birds Unlimited.
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By Pamela Crawford, author, Easy Patio Veggies & Herbs
Photographs by Pamela Crawford
Pamela has written a great article about mixing herbs in containers. Herbs are natural companions with different textures for interest. The herb mix of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme offers lots of flavor from a small combination loaded with textural interest.
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