How can we do our part to help them survive the harsh winter?
- High energy, nutritious food
- Access to clean water
- Refuge from winter winds, rain and snow
1) Stock up on bird seed. Birdseed mixes containing sunflower seeds and nuts are high in fat and calories and provide high energy fuel for maintaining body heat and strength. Scatter seeds in sheltered places on the ground for ground feeders. Keep birdseed dry to prevent bacteria and mold buildup.
2) Provide suet cakes. Suet is an important source of high energy nutrition and is especially valuable in cold weather, as it provides the easily metabolized fat that birds use to stay warm. Animal fat is easily digested and metabolized by many birds, including woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays and infrequently, wrens, cardinals and warblers.
3) Provide access to fresh clean water. Water is just as important in winter as in summer. Birds need water to stay hydrated, but also use water to preen feathers, important to maintain good insulation against the cold. Even in places where there is abundant snow and ice, birds are forced to burn calories and sacrifice precious body heat to melt the snow.
To keep water from freezing, consider an immersion style water heater for the birdbath. Also, help birds stay safe and dry by adding several stones and branches to the bird bath to allow for perching and keeping feet out of the water. Bird baths with gentle slopes are recommended. Some birds do bathe in the winter. Do not add glycerin to prevent water from freezing. It can stick to feathers and destroy their insulation value.
4) Provide shelter from wind and cold. Birds find shelter in hedges, evergreens, brush/leaf piles, even under decks. Leaves, branches, and grass in a brush pile provide excellent insulation and shelter not only from the harsh weather, but also provide protection for smaller birds from predators like cats and hawks. Shelter closer to the ground is warmer.
5) Keep cats indoors. Though this is a highly controversial topic, with flawed statistics, keeping cats indoors does impact predation of birds.
Recipe for a Homemade Holiday Bird Treat
3 Blocks of plain suet (available at various garden centers, home improvement stores and on the Internet)
½ cup of peanut butter
9 cups of bird seed
Assorted dried fruits and berries
- Over low heat, melt the three blocks of suet in a large pot. Stir constantly. Do not allow to boil.
- Once the suet is melted, add the peanut butter and let the combined mixture fully melt. Stir as needed.
- Combine the liquid suet mixture with the bird seed. Mix well.
- Spray the Bundt pan well with cooking spray and layer the bottom with berries and fruit
- Fill the Bundt pan with the liquid suet mixture.
- Let stand in the refrigerator overnight to harden. Once hardened carefully remove the mold from the pan.
- Tie a ribbon around the wreath and hang outdoors for the birds to enjoy. Make an extra wreath and give to a friend.
Note: Some reviewers have noted that the mixture was difficult to remove from the Bundt pan and that putting it in the freezer solved the problem.