Feeding Your Fine Feathered Friends This Winter

Winter can be a difficult time of year for our feathered friends. Insects like flies, grubs and worms are nowhere to be found, and berries, seeds and other flora is likely buried under a blanket of snow. You can help by providing your avian visitors with some treats throughout the winter. Feeding the birds can be fun and rewarding – there’s nothing lovelier than a snow-covered tree alight with cardinals, juncos and finches. There are, however, some specific steps you should take if you decide to feed the winter fowl that visit your backyard, from the type of feeder to the actual food.

What type of feeder should I use? If you want to attract a variety of birds, you’ll probably want to have more than one feeder available. Whatever feeder you choose, you’ll want to make sure that the actual feeding port is protected from the weather and from snow and ice. The feeder itself should be placed in a location that is out of the way from severe weather and winds. You’ll also want to be sure that birds can easily go from the feeder to places of cover, like trees and shrubs, in case of predators. For your convenience, you’ll also want to make sure that the feeder has a large capacity, so it will not require frequent filling. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll want to keep feed free of moisture in order to prevent mold growth. Feeders should be kept clean to prevent mold, mildew and other unhealthy conditions.

What kind of food should I offer? There are many different types of wild bird food on the market, but during the winter, birds require foods that have a higher fat and oil content. Some types of seed to consider include black oil sunflower seeds, white millet seed, Niger seed and hulled peanuts. Additionally, you may want to offer foods that have been mixed with suet or peanut butter, as well as dried fruits. Store bird food in a cool, dry place away from bugs and rodents.

What potential predators should I be on the lookout for? Obviously, if food is scarce for birds in the winter, food is also scarce for other outdoor animals. Squirrels and raccoons might raid your feeders for the food, while stray cats might raid your feeders for birds! You can minimize this by taking a few simple steps. Look for a feeder with caged perches and squirrel baffles. You might also want to provide temporary fencing around the feeders. If you choose, offer cobs of corn in another location for the squirrel population. Most importantly – don’t be unintentional predator yourself. Once you start feeding birds, they’ll come to rely on you. Before your start feeding, be aware that your feathered friends will look to you for a food source.

While the kids are home on holiday break, you might want to consider this fun project that can help get your whole family involved in your bird-feeding hobby. You’ll need:

  • Peanut butter
  • An empty paper towel tube
  • Birdseed
  • Baling twine, yarn or heavy string
  • Butter knife (or Popsicle stick)
  • Plate
  • Scissors

Spread the peanut butter onto the tube using a butter knife. If you’re worried about small hands, a Popsicle stick works great, too. Spread it on generously – too little peanut butter will not allow the seed to stick. Fill the plate with the birdseed, and roll the tube in the seed. Fill in any gaps by pressing the seed in with your hands. Finally, put the string through the tube and tie, making sure you leave enough string for the birds to perch and eat comfortably. Hang your creation from a nearby tree and enjoy!

For everything you need to keep your fine-feathered friends happy and healthy this winter, visit Charlie Johns general store. They carry a large variety of outdoor bird food (and peanut butter and paper towels, too!)

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