In summer birds use most of their energy foraging for food and nesting. Food is plentiful and birds have a wide variety of fruits, berries, seeds, insects and nuts to choose from as well as the food they get at our feeders. A varied diet is almost guaranteed! However, in winter birds use the majority of their energy stores just to keep warm. And by mid-winter, the majority of fruits and berries left on shrubs are gone and insects are non-existent. While it’s easy to keep the feeders stocked with seeds, consider supplementing with fruits and nuts so birds continue to get a varied diet with lots of high-energy foods.
While many fruit-eating birds have migrated, there are still birds that appreciate fruit or berries in the winter, such as robins, cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, waxwings and bluebirds. Fruits and berries have antioxidants which are believed to help birds cope with the stress of events such as migration and surviving winter. You can offer fresh fruit, such as orange halves, sliced or halved apples, grapes and raisins. If you have berries of any kind that are past their freshness (but not moldy!) such as blueberries, blackberries or cherries, you can offer these to the birds too. Dried cranberries and blueberries as well as grape jelly are available at Duncraft, and you can purchase bird seed blends that include dried berries, such as Very Berry Blend and WaxSnax with cranberries.
The goal of winter feeding should be to provide birds with concentrated forms of oils and fat which are converted to energy to keep birds warm. Nuts play an important role here since they contain more oils than seeds. Although peanuts aren’t technically a nut, they’re a terrific source of oil. Besides peanuts, you can feed mixes that include tree nuts such as almonds, pecans, walnuts and even cashews. Chickadee Blend is a good choice, as is Extreme Trail Mix which also includes dried fruit. Birds that love nuts include woodpeckers, doves, chickadees, jays, nuthatches and titmice.
By feeding fruits and nuts in winter, you are ensuring your birds get a varied diet with more nutrition than seeds alone — and that can make all the difference in helping birds survive the winter.