This time of year, birds look for food, water, and shelter just like other creatures — but wind, rain, snow, and ice sometimes make them difficult to find. Even milder climates will have some challenging weather every now and then, so it’s nice to help them out a bit. These are easy and inexpensive (sometimes free!) ways to ensure these little creatures remain safe and sound during the cold months.
Winter Bird Feeding
Provide Birds With Shelter
Plant evergreen trees and shrubs around your property as shelter during the cold, and consider leaving a brush pile in the corner of the yard over the winter months. Piles of leaves give small birds places to hide as well. Hang new birdhouses or clean out old ones, and you can even insulate them with dry grass or wood shavings. But remember — it can take several weeks for birds to get used to the new digs, so be patient if you don’t see visitors at first.
How to Feed Birds
Trees and shrubs with berries provide ongoing food for birds during the lean months. Recycle your Christmas tree by placing it outside — add pinecones smeared with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed as edible ornaments. Set up a few bird feeders with good quality birdseed, or make your own from a pottery saucer leftover from the summer. Most birds love black-oil sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, nyjer seeds, millet, and cracked corn.
Place multiple feeders spaced out around your yard, or get extra-large feeders so you can cut down on the number of trips you have to take to refill in the wintertime, and also allow more birds to eat at the same time. Make sure the feeder keep the seeds dry and place them in less windy areas.
Bird Friendly Water Sources
It’s imperative that birds have a source of clean water, both for drinking and bathing. Birds will use the water to preen their feathers, which keeps them nicely insulated in the cold. Inexpensive birdbaths are simple additions, but if you live in a very cold area with ice and snow, the water might freeze over and be inaccessible to the birds. In that case, consider adding a heated birdbath or repurposing a heated dog water dish to your garden. Put a small overturned clay pot in the center for a dry place for birds to stand as they drink.
Get to Know Your Area
Learn about the birds in your area, what types of shelters they prefer, and what feed they like. Some birds like to eat off the ground instead of from feeders, so you might need to scatter the feed on dry spots on the ground. Some might rather find shelter in dead vegetation from last years garden than in a birdhouse. Become familiar with the birds in your neighborhood, and plan accordingly.