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Helping Birds Survive the Winter

Wintertime, and the living ain't easy for our fine feathered friends. Birds prepare as best as they can for the cold weather but can still have difficulties finding adequate food, water and shelter. Some birds migrate to get away from cold weather, but not all species of birds do. For those that stick around, the winter weather limits their food sources and leaves them relying on us to help them survive. There are a few things we can do to help birds get through those cold winter days:

Make Seed Available
In winter, Nature’s seed sources are depleted after most plants go dormant, and stocked feeders provide the nourishing diets and extra calories birds need to stay warm. Even if seed is available, the brisk winter winds often blow away seed and excess moisture makes available food inedible. Not to mention the shorter days give birds less time to spend searching for food.

Provide High-Energy Food
Birds burn fat for energy to stay warm. It’s important to choose bird feed that is high in calories and high in fat like suet, peanut butter, peanuts and black oil sunflower seeds. Unsalted peanuts are another excellent winter food, since nuts don't freeze and are high in calories, oil and fat. These high-energy foods give birds the fuel they need to maintain warm body temperatures during the long, cold nights.

Provide Extra Calories
In summer, birds have an endless supply of insects and fruits to eat, but in winter, insects and fruits are nowhere to be found. While some birds migrate, the birds that don’t will adjust their diet from fruit and insects to seeds. Extra feeding helps them prepare for spring mating, and when birds have access to more nutrients in winter, the spring mating season will be more successful. Chicks will have healthier weights and egg laying will happen earlier.

Provide a Safe Place for Feeding
When food is difficult for birds to find, it’s also harder for squirrels, mice, raccoons and stray cats to find, too. Help protect birds by placing food sources near thick brush or other natural canopies to keep them safe while feeding.

Provide Water
It’s difficult for birds to find fresh water in winter once it begins to freeze, but water is essential not only to help them stay hydrated but also to assists them with clean up between flights. Birds not only use water to stay hydrated, but they also utilize water to preen their feathers, which helps to keep them insulated keeping them warmer and healthier. Simply breaking up ice in existing bird baths and keeping them full will help provide them with fresh water during the frigid winter months.

To learn more about what seed attracts specific birds click here .