Friday, November 24, 2017

Feeding Birds in the Fall and Winter By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo by Joyce D'Agostino

Like most outdoor wildlife, birds depend on the natural surroundings for food, water and shelter. Often some areas have little open space for wildlife to thrive and providing supplemental nutrition during the fall and winter can help birds survive and cope with the changing weather.

In a previous blog (10/19/2017: Love Birds and Pollinators? Don't Clean the Fall Garden by Carol King) we discussed how not removing some of your flower seed heads can provide a good source of seeds for the birds.  So instead of doing a full scale clean up of your landscape to remove dried seeds and pods, leave some for the wildlife to enjoy. 
Providing seed and suet blocks for the birds throughout the cold weather months is also a good and acceptable way to give birds an extra source of nutrition.  

There has been some discussion as to whether filling your birdfeeder with seeds is good for the birds or if they should depend solely on natural foraging and finding open water sources. Research shows that providing food for the birds is acceptable and focusing on the right seed such as the black sunflower seeds which is high in nutrition, plus fresh water, provides an important and healthy supplement to the bird’s diets. 

For water, you don’t need to invest in an expensive birdbath, a shallow durable dish will work just as well. Change the water often so that it doesn’t freeze and remains clean is important. Electric or solar water heaters can also be purchased to keep the water from freezing. 

When it comes to choosing the best food, before investing in a large amount of certain seed, first start with the black sunflower seed. If you then want to test another type of seed, start with a small amount.  

Choosing the right bushes and trees to add to your landscape also is very important to provide shelter from the weather and predators. The bulletins below provide good research based information on feeding your birds and other wildlife and suggestions for shelter plants: