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How to help the birds endure the winter

With much of the U.S. under snow, it’s time to make sure your bird feeder is filled. An assertive Blue Jay, first at the trough. Even if you don’t have...

With much of the U.S. under snow, it’s time to make sure your bird feeder is filled.

Snow Day 10

An assertive Blue Jay, first at the trough.

Even if you don’t have an official feeder, no worries. Just get the seeds or suet out there somehow.

We have a bird feeder that’s often raided by squirrels, and so this morning we supplemented the offerings in our yard with simple pie tin of black oil seeds. We placed it beneath a tree where the birds have been sheltering. Within minutes, it had visitors.

The squirrels will eventually find this food too, so it could be a free-for-all later on. Still, we’ve counted four species of birds — the Blue Jay, cardinals and a couple varieties of nuthatches – that are staking turf nearby and taking turns at the seeds.

Here are a few tips from the Audubon Society to best assist the birds:

  • Provide a variety of quality seeds and also fresh drinking and bathing water (the latter is more for warm months).
  • Make sure there’s ample cover, preferably provided by native plants. Native plants also provide potential nesting sites and a source of natural food.
  • Be mindful that windows present a hazard; keep feeders a safe distance away.
SNOW DAY 12

Cardinal waiting his turn.

Audubon also has posted a list of the seeds that birds like, explaining what works best for different species and how to handle suet and peanut butter so these needed fatty foods are digestible.

Here are some short recipes from Audubon for creating hearty winter bites for birds:

Peanut butter pudding: Peanut butter is a good substitute for suet in the summer. Mix one part peanut butter with five parts corn meal and stuff the mixture into holes drilled in a hanging log or into the crevices of a large pinecone. This all-season mixture attracts woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, and occasionally warblers.

Fruit for berry-eating birds: Fruit specialists such as robins, waxwings, bluebirds, and mockingbirds rarely eat birdseed. To attract these birds, soak raisins and currants in water overnight, then place them on a table feeder, or purchase blends with a dried fruit mixture. To attract orioles and tanagers, skewer halved oranges onto a spike near other feeders, or provide nectar feeders.

Nectar for hummingbirds: Make a sugar solution of one part white sugar to four parts water. Boil briefly to sterilize and dissolve sugar crystals; no need to add red food coloring. Feeders must be washed every few days with very hot water and kept scrupulously clean to prevent the growth of mold. (Many hummingbirds over winter in Southern states, so people in Austin and Phoenix and similar locales should consider keeping their feeders up year round.)

 

 

 

 


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