Winter is upon us. Beautiful white snow blankets the earth, delighting children and frustrating adults who have to shovel, scrape, and defrost before going anywhere. How fortunate we are, though, to have our safe, warm homes stocked with plenty of food to last us all season. Things are quite different, however, from the vantage point of the creatures who have to remain outdoors, regardless of the weather.
If your heartstrings have ever been tugged by the sight of tiny birds flying around in the howling wind or foraging for food, you may want to keep reading. If you would like to help out some of these helpless creatures, why not put out a bird feeder? It’s a simple task - one that can not only provide sustenance for our feathered friends but can also leave you with a contented feeling that only comes from having reached out to help someone or something in distress.
Not only is it cold and often windy but a blanket of snow often obscures any available food source for outdoor critters. Some animals hibernate, others rely on the stash of nuts they have squirreled away for just such times. No matter the type of animal, finding food in the winter months is a challenge. So much so that many do not survive.
Some of the most vulnerable of creatures are the birds that stick around in spite of the snow. Although many birds fly south for the winter, there are a few species that remain, year-round: Cardinals, Finches, Sparrows, Woodpeckers, and Goldfinches are just a few of the hardy feathered friends that choose to stay home and make the best of it.
If you are so inclined and would like to make their winter season a little more bearable, there are some things you can do to help them through the frigid months.
It all starts long before the winter sets in. Many people choose to raise native plants like Holly that provide winter berries that are a natural food source for birds. You might also consider planting conifers like pine and spruces that, when mature, offer nesting perches and protection for them.
Granted, this side of helping birds takes a great deal of foresight and may take years to come to fruition. If you are wondering, “What can I do now, today, to help?” The logical answer to that question is to set out a bird feeder to provide a consistent food supply for your winged comrades.
If you do choose to feed the birds who have stuck around, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Once you start putting out food, you must commit to continuing throughout the winter. Birds come to rely on the food and, if you suddenly stop, they may be unable to find another food source. This can cause unnecessary hardship for them.
2. Place the bird feeder in a sheltered area, away from the elements so the food stays dry and birds have a respite from wind and snow.
3. Keep your feeder at least eight feet away from protective shrubbery that could provide hiding places for predators, like cats.
4. Keep the feeder clean and wash it out often with a mixture of vinegar and water.
5. Store birdseed in a waterproof, airtight container. This will keep unwanted varmints from raiding your storehouse.
6. Include Black Oil Sunflower seeds in the mix; it attracts a wide variety of winter birds.
7. To attract insect-eating birds like Woodpeckers, Chickadees, and Nuthatches, you can hang a suet feeder.
8. Don’t forget about providing plenty of fresh water. You may not have considered this, but once it gets below freezing, it is difficult for animals to find water to drink.
If you follow these simple suggestions, you will be doing your part to help alleviate the misery of some of nature’s most defenseless creatures - our beautiful birds. With only a little bit of effort, you can keep those fine feathered friends happy and healthy all winter long.
Before you know it, Spring will be here and those winged warriors you helped sustain through the winter will still be around. And, who knows? They just might feel the need to repay your good deed by filling the air around your home with their melodious tunes.
For additional ideas on how to be a help to our feathered friends this winter, please watch the video, below.