The following post comes from guest bloggers Don and Lillian Stokes, who are best-selling authors of multiple bird and nature guides. They are also the authors behind Stokes Birding Blog and sell some pretty awesome bird products at PETCO.
Keep an eye out for multiple posts on bird feeding this month, since February is National Wild Bird Feeding Month. National Wild Bird Feeding Month was created to encourage people to feed wild birds during what is typically the coldest month of the year; the snow on the ground hides the natural food supply, which causes food sources to become scarce. This makes winter the most important time to provide an extra source of nutrition for our feathered friends.
Feeding birds in the winter months is very important. During the winter months their natural food sources are often scarce and they heavily rely on us filling our bird feeders with seed and suet. Birds do not store lots of fat on their bodies, so they need to restock their fuel supplies every day. They often cannot go more than 24 hours without eating in severe weather. Here are some easy tips for you to keep your backyard bird friends flocking year round.
1. Place feeders near cover such as dense evergreens to provide birds cover from storms and escape from predators.
2. Feed black oil sunflower, or mixes that contain a high proportion of black oil sunflower. Black oil sunflower is an energy rich food that has a high fat and protein content. Birds need more energy to keep warm in cold weather.
3. Provide an all-you-can-eat buffet by keeping feeders full. Birds especially need to chow down at the end of the day to stock up on calories for the night, and in the early morning to refuel after a cold night.
4. Provide suet cakes in addition to seed. Suet is considered a high energy food for birds because it consists of fat. A gram of fat contains 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates or protein. Thus, birds get more calories when they consume fat vs. the same amount of protein or carbohydrates. Birds need more calories in winter because they spend more energy to keep warm. Suet will attract woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and many more.
5. Be consistent. Do not stop feeding in the middle of winter because birds become accustomed to using your feeders as a food source, especially in very severe weather when your feeders may aid their survival. If you go away, ask a neighbor or friend to keep your feeders going.
6. Provide feeders that have a good size capacity, or use multiple feeders so you can have an ample supply of food available for the birds, especially during snow storms.
7. Shovel snow off feeders and from around the ground below your feeders after storms so birds can access the seed. Mourning Doves, Juncos and White-throated Sparrows are ground feeders and need to access the seed that falls to the ground – help them out & throw some seed on the ground.