Provide Birds with Food, Water and Shelter This Winter and You’ll Likely See Baby Birds in Your Yard This Spring
It’s January and the temperatures are dropping. Ponds and lakes have frozen over and there are barely any berries left on the trees. Right now, the birds need our help the most.
What can you do to help? If we were to sum it up in only three words, provide: food, water, shelter. Let’s consider what this means, from one backyard bird feeding enthusiast to another.
Provide Black Oil Sunflower Seed and Suet
Food. Freezing temperatures are nothing to joke about. A tiny bird, like a chickadee, easily loses 10% of its body weight overnight just trying to stay warm. At first light, the primary objective of these tiny birds is to find food.
For most species, a quick trip to the feeder for black oil sunflower seeds does the trick. For finches, they line up at the Nyjer feeder, waiting for a tiny high-energy morsel of Nyjer seed. While jays and woodpeckers quickly find the peanut or suet feeder.
Black oil sunflower seed is a great choice to feed your backyard birds all year-round, even if it’s the only food you offer over the winter. The shell protects the meaty sunflower seed inside from the wet weather, so your seed lasts longer which is nice. However, feeding suet is also a good idea. At the very least, in winter, offer black oil sunflower seed and suet to your birds. While many people choose to feed suet cakes, any form of suet will do: suet nuggets, suet balls, the list goes on…
Provide Water to Drink in a Heated Birdbath
Water. While it may seem counterintuitive to provide water during the winter when most water sources have frozen over, providing water is essential. Birds require water to drink and to preen their feathers, keeping them in tip-top shape to seek shelter or escape from predators at a moment’s notice.
Even though birds can melt snow in their bill, doing so takes up precious energy that would serve them better by finding food and staying warm.
One easy way to provide water for birds, even in freezing temperatures, is to fill up a heated birdbath. The built-in automatic thermostat only turns on when necessary and uses a minimal amount of electricity, only enough to prevent the water from completely freezing over.
Ice may build up around the edges of the birdbath and snow may accumulate, but the center will maintain an open area of water for birds to drink from. If you’re concerned about your birds getting too wet in freezing temperatures, add a branch or two placed lengthwise across the basin for birds to perch on while getting a drink.
Provide a Roosting Box for Shelter from the Weather
Shelter. With temperatures often dipping below freezing at night, providing shelter for your birds makes the difference to ensure their survival. While roosting boxes and birdhouses both provide shelter, there are a few key differences.
Roosting boxes provide winter shelter for your birds. They’re insulated and airtight, with the entrance often located at the bottom of the front panel to let warm air rise up inside, to keep the birds warm while huddled together on the ladder.
Birdhouses are designed with ventilation and drainage to keep birds cool and comfortable, during the warm nesting season.
To use your birdhouse as a winter bird shelter, first cleanout your birdhouse. Then, use a temporary sealant to close off any areas where the wind could come through, except for the entry hole which you want to leave as is. Doing this protects any birds that use the box from the bitter cold winter winds and allows birds inside to conserve their energy and increase their chances for survival, so they’ll stay in your yard for nesting season.
Even something as simple and cleaning out and leaving your birdhouse up all year touches upon the same idea. When no longer exposed to the elements, birds conserve the energy they desperately need to survive the bitter cold weather — giving them their best chance for survival.
Provide Food, Water and Shelter Now and You’ll Be Rewarded with Baby Birds in Your Yard This Spring
This winter, provide food, water and shelter for your backyard birds. They’ll show their appreciation by being one of the first species to nest in your yard.
The season for watching baby birds is just around the corner.
Please call our friendly bird feeding specialists for any bird-related questions or for guidance on choosing a roosting box, birdhouse or heated birdbath.
Our friendly bird specialists are available by phone at 1-888-879-5095 from Monday through Friday between 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM ET. Thank you and Happy Birding!
Written by Dawn Coutu