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Helping Wintering Birds Stay Fed, Clean and Warm

Have you ever found yourself on a cold winter’s day looking out the window at the wild birds in your yard and wondering how they stay alive? Maybe you’ve asked yourself questions such as, “How do they survive sub-freezing temperatures?” Or, “How do they find enough food each day to maintain their metabolism?”

While many bird species migrate to warmer climates in the fall, there are perhaps just as many that stick around. As you sit in your warm, thermostatically controlled house, you might wonder, “What can I do to help wild birds that winter-over at 7,000 feet?” Here are some simple suggestions to make their lives a little easier.

  • Consider feeding the birds by providing nutritious wild bird seed. A blend with a mixture of seed and nut ingredients high in fat and protein is best. Avoid box-store bird seed that contains a lot of filler ingredients and is not formulated for the birds that occur in this part of the country.
  • In addition to bird seed, put out suet feeders. There are many different suet products available. It is important to read the nutritional analysis on the label and choose a brand high in fat and protein that does not contain any filler ingredients. Suet appeals primarily to insect-eating varieties of birds. You can attract a wider variety of birds to your yard if you feed both seed and suet.
  • Provide open sources of water. Water that is accessible (not frozen) to birds in winter is important, as birds need to bathe in winter. Clean feathers provide greater insulating capacity than feathers that are dirty and matted. Using a heated bird bath, or a bird bath heater in an existing bird bath, is the best way to keep water open and accessible to birds in winter.
  • Install nesting boxes for cavity nesting birds. Birds that nest in cavities also roost in cavities at night. It is not uncommon for cavity-roosting birds to roost communally, with several birds of the same species sharing a single bird house each night. Roosting together allows the birds to share body warmth and conserves energy.
  • Create a brush pile using yard trimmings. Throughout the year as you prune and trim trees and shrubs in your yard, use the trimmings to create an artificial brush pile. Brush piles create a place for birds to seek shelter from the elements, as well as a place to disappear into when a predator comes into the yard.
  • Use feeders that protect bird seed from the elements. If bird seed gets wet from rain or snow, it will get caked in the feeder and it is not healthy for the birds to eat. There are a variety of feeder styles available that have either a roof or a dome to keep the seed dry.

As you feed the wild birds in your yard, you will find a sense of inner satisfaction and enjoyment knowing that the birds will have it a little easier because of your help this winter. FBN

By Eric Moore

Eric Moore is a life-long birder and is owner of Jay’s Bird Barn, a backyard wild bird and nature gift store next to Michael’s in the Sprouts shopping center in Varsity Plaza in Flagstaff. Contact us with your questions at 928-774-1110, jaysbirdbarn.com or find us on Facebook.


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