Bird Feeding Birds Winter

National Bird Feeding Month

cardinal-wpIn 1994, a resolution declaring February as National Bird Feeding Month was introduced into the Congressional Record by Illinois representative, John Porter. In his speech, the Honorable John Porter described to the Speaker of the House how February is one of the most difficult months for wild birds to survive. He encouraged Americans to provide food, water and shelter for our wild birds. He also promoted bird feeding as an educational experience for children and a stress reliever for adults!

National bird 2For non-migrating birds, February is a month of extreme cold, frozen water and diminished food supplies. Birds need to have lots of calories to give them energy while foraging in the daytime and to sustain warmth during the night when they’re not feeding.  Birds feed the most right before dusk to build up calories for overnight and again first thing in the morning to refuel. So make sure your feeders are always kept full of seed and check them in the afternoon to be sure they are.

Since birds eat so much more during winter, a hopper feeder with a locking roof is a good choice for a feeder, as is a platform feeder with a roof to help keep snow off the seed.  Be sure to check after a storm that feeding ports are clear and the seed is not covered with snow.  Seeds high in oil content, such as plain black oil sunflower seedNational bird3 is ideal.  And feeding suet is a “must” during freezing winter months. Suet is pure fat, often mixed with seeds or peanuts, which provides high energy and the extra calories that birds need to stay warm. It can be offered in a suet feeder or just placed on a platform feeder.  All winter birds crave suet and lots of it!
And in winter, frozen water sources are a real hardship for birds. Birds need water to drink.  If they don’t get it, they will eat snow or find a place where ice is melting off the side of a house or from icicles. How much easier it would be for them if we provided ice free National Bird 4water! And birds need water in winter to keep their feathers clean.  Dirty feathers don’t insulate well and also make flight less efficient–clean feathers in winter are imperative.  If you haven’t been offering water in winter, purchasing a bird bath deicer, or perhaps a heated bird bath would make a huge difference in a wild bird’s ability to survive.  They’re not very expensive and use little electricity.  Most heaters and baths run at about 150 to 200 watts, and not continuously.  That’s equivalent to having a few light bulbs on now and then, and a small price to pay for helping our winter birds.
National bird 6Lastly, shelter provides a place for birds to take refuge at night from frigid winter winds.  A place of shelter can can be as simple as a dense brush pile in the corner of your yard, or you can provide roosting boxes that are designed to maximize heat retention and minimize drafts. These are “houses” that have the opening at the bottom and roosting perches inside. Often many birds will gather together in the same roosting box and provide warmth for each other. Place the box in a sheltered area with the opening facing away from prevailing winds.  Duncraft offers a Roosting Box that can be converted to a regular bird house in spring.
Along with doing your part to help our birds, spreading the word about National Bird Feeding Month to your friends and acquaintances is a great way to introduce them to the hobby of bird feeding. It just may kindle a lifelong love of birds and you’ll have the pleasure of knowing you’re helping our backyard friends.
–R. Brune
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  • Reply R. Brune February 8, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    velma February 3, 2010 at 10:26 am
    hello, i live in sw wi. and for about 6 weeks i have had a eastern towee at my feeder i dont even see this bird around here in the summer let alone the winter also last week i saw a carolina wren does anyone know why these birds are here now

  • Reply R. Brune February 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Velma, I moved your post to here. Maybe one of our readers can answer your question.

  • Reply Sandra February 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Are you sure it was a Towhee at a feeder? They usually are ground feeders and almost always near undergrowth. Has it been warm in your area? I live in middle Tennessee and I have a couple near my woods.

    The Carolina Wren, I have those, too, but that’s normal for me. Maybe because it’s been so cold in the east and south lately.

    Enjoy the Towhee. They are a rare treat.

  • Reply Linda February 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    We have more problems from wet and moldy food in the Pacific Northwest than snow or cold. I’ve even had the tough suet blocks mold from the damp and warm weather. We have the Towhees and new to me Oregon Juncos and Chestnut-backed Chickadees and Red-Breasted Nuthatches. I moved from a more wooded yard to an open yard and rediscovered Starlings after 7 years in the NW area. My current favorite is the Townsend’s Warbler. So pretty. This winter has been exciting to have a hummingbird stay all winter. Anna’s Hummingbirds remain in the area and winter here. I recently bought the hummingbird house from Duncraft and hope to have one (or more!) nesting.

  • Reply Jen February 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Great feeding tips!
    We had a lot of snow last week and the birds are hungry.
    I am home during the day so I am able to watch them all day long. I always refill the feeders, especially in the winter weather.
    I’m wondering if there such a thing as overfeeding the birds?

  • Reply Jen February 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Oh and I have the Towhees and Carolina Wrens too. I’m in Northern Kentucky. I think you are seeing them due to this winters weather–they are out looking for food.
    They usually are on the ground, but they do go to the feeders from time to time.

  • Reply Julie Goodwin January 31, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    We have been feeding birds for about 3 years and this winter have had hawks (2) feeding on the birds. Usually the birds make a quick get-a-way. Should we stop feeding the birds for awhile-until the hawks go elsewhere or what? We are in Southern California In the high desert. Mountains are close to us.

  • Reply Stuart February 4, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    I live in Fort Worth, TX. Our recent winter storm has crippled the region. I made sure I had plenty of bird food on hand before it began. It paid off. My backyard is attracting birds I have never seen. It’s an incredible experience. I ordered feeders of various styles from Duncraft prior to the storm and thankful I did. Most of my afternoon has been looking through books trying to identify the new species. Backyard birding is a new hobby for me and I enjoy it tremendously.

  • Reply Dan February 5, 2011 at 10:57 am

    we are lucky here in Maryland. we have every kind of birds at our feeders and suet cages. My favorite are the woodpeckers, four different kind,My favorite is the yellow tail flicker.Beautiful colors and the cardninals are everywhere.House wrens, tufted titmouses,white breasted nuthatches, blue jays, doves, chickadees, and sparrows just to name a few.Every morning something new shows up. I love to photograph then they all make my day.ENJOY NATURE.Take care.

  • Reply Donna February 5, 2011 at 7:19 pm

    We have all the birds as Dan stated above but only the red belly and the downey. Recently two male pheasants have been visiting our ground feeding area. I have added corn and split white peanuts to our food for the winter. We use peanuts year round but more of them during winter. We also smear peanut butter on tree limbs. We also have doves and they often become victims for the Cooper hawk that has this territory.
    We have been feeding birds for 12-13 yrs now. I always tell people I have hundreds of pets!!

  • Reply Sharon February 2, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Where have all the birds gone ?Maybe a chick a dee here and there,couple of woodpeckers,a cardinal couple but plenty of doves.I remember a lot more this time last year..

  • Reply JAB February 8, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Here in Ohio the winter has been mild resulting in fewer birds visiting our feeders. That is most likely the problem Sharon is having.

    Be sure to check out The 15th annuel Great Backyard Bird Cont is just around the corner. Next week end Feb. 17th thru the 20th thousands of birders will be counting birds for the GBBC. Be sure to help us count birds to make this years GBBC the best ever!!!!!

  • Reply MARIA SCIOTTI February 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I live in Albany NY. At the end of Fall I saw my 1st Towhee a female. It just popped out of the bushes right in front of me. It stayed for a bit. Was here for 3 days ground feeding and then moved on. So I agree they are a rare treat to see. This winter is very mild here but still have a ton of birds. Today had 13 Juncos! I have 9 cardinals every night that come at dusk-Its an amazing to watch them all. My bird bath freezes up alot & I put a pitcher of warm water on it and the birds go crazy.

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