The winter weather outside most parts of the U.S. is frightful this weekend with expected heavy snowfall, but don’t worry about the safety of your backyard bird friends. Nature gave them everything they needed to endure the brutal weather.
Winter birds survive the whipping winds and heavy snow during brutally cold winters with nothing more than their magical feathers.
A bird’s feathers are the equivalent of Harry Potter’s wand. Every feather wields magic. Birds flatten or fluff up their feathers to create more airspace between them to regulate temperature. So, the hotter a bird gets, its feathers become flatter with no airspace.
The colder a bird is, the fluffier they become by puffing up and trapping air that adds insulation between their feathers. So don’t worry about your backyard bird friends; they’ll be just fine.
Here are a few tips to provide a little helping hand to keep your backyard birds flocking to your feeders during the wintery weather.
1. Provide Quality Food
Providing the best winter bird food doesn’t mean it must be gourmet. Select seeds, suet, nuts, peanut butter, and scraps high in fat and calories to give birds plenty of energy to generate more body heat.
We give our suet-loving birds woodpecker cakes and peanut suet nuggets. Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Flickers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Carolina Wrens enjoy eating them and visit the feeders throughout the day.
Our staple bird food for our backyard birds is sunflower chips. The cardinals and Tufted Titmouse love this seed, and the ground-dwelling birds like Dark-eyed Juncos, Mourning Doves and White-throated Sparrows enjoy eating the spilled seeds below.
We’ve tried various birdseed brands and found all birdseed is not the same. We lost some of our birds during the summer after switching brands, and once we returned our previous brand, the birds returned. So chose your bird seed wisely.
2. Keep Bird Feeders Full
After long, cold nights, the birds need ready access to food in the early morning to replenish their energy reserves.
The birds are up at the crack of dawn looking for sustenance long before we’ve climbed out of our warm beds, so this requires your attention and dedication. That means keeping your bird feeders stocked with nutritious seeds no matter the weather outside so the birds know where to go for a high-energy meal.
We replenish food multiple times a day before, during, and after snowstorms to ensure our feathered friends are well-fed. Our cardinals look for food at dusk, and if the feeders are picked clean, they will let us know. So we keep a ladder nearby to quickly refill the sunflower chips for them. (Use caution when climbing a ladder with wet boots or shoes.)
3. Offer a Water Source
Consider offering birds a heated birdbath they can drink from in freezing temperatures, and your backyard birds have a much better chance at survival. Birds can melt snow to drink if necessary, but then the bird uses the precious energy it needs to maintain its body heat.
4. Provide Shelter
Plant evergreen shrubs and coniferous trees to provide suitable shelter throughout the winter, and leave fall brush piles to give birds a safe, sheltered place to roost.
We have several Carolina Wrens using our brush piles for shelter, and we keep bundles of sticks and wood around the yard as wren “houses” they retreat to throughout the day.
If you have trailers, elevated planter boxes, tables, chairs, or BBQ grills and don’t have room for them in a shed or barn, tarp them, and the birds will use the dry space under them for shelter. Our Carolina Wrens stay under our planter boxes and trailer during heavy snowfall.
Be sure to throw seeds under them so they have something to eat so they don’t have to venture out in the bright white snow in search of food when they’re more vulnerable to attack from a predator.
Toss some seeds under pine trees or bushes where they might hide out. Also, consider adding a roost box to your yard.
So, as the harsh winter weather sets in, there’s no need to worry about your backyard birds.
Nature’s adaptions help birds survive severe winter weather, and a little helping hand of good food, shelter, and other necessities keeps winter birds flocking to your backyard.
Happy Winter Birdwatching!
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