Birdwatching is a popular hobby all year round. There’s something special about spotting non-migratory birds in the middle of winter as a way of connecting with nature. A lot of people enjoy putting out bird feeders to help our feathered friends survive the colder months. If you’re wondering whether you should feed the birds through the winter, here are some considerations:
How Can Birds Survive the Cold Winter
Non-migratory birds (birds that stay put during the colder months and do not travel to warmer climates) have two problems during the winter. First, they have to maintain a warmer body temperature in order to stay active. Secondly, they need to find food to support their daily activity. During the colder months, birds must maximize their calorie intake and minimize how many calories they spend. One way they do this is to fluff out their feathers, which helps to insulate their bodies. The bird’s feet, which are usually unprotected, have a lower core temperature than their body.
This helps them use less calories to stay warm. Their physiology helps birds survive the colder temperatures in winter.
Many winter birds travel in groups as part of their winter survival strategy. When one bird finds food, other birds in the flock notice. They all forage until the food source is dried up. Although food options may seem scarce, with some searching, birds do manage to find insects and various seeds from many different sources.
What Problems Can Surface When You Feed the Birds?
Birds that do have to supplement food in the winter tend to fare better than birds without extra food, but there are some problems with putting out food for your feathered friends. Bird feeders can bring many species together in a small space. This creates conditions that are ideal for bacteria and parasites to pass between birds and get into your yard. In addition, sick birds who might be subject to normal culling conditions can often survive, subjecting their peers to their disease. Other problems that occur at winter bird feeders:
- The droppings and seeds getting wet can create a nasty mess.
- Other wildlife may appear, such as mice, squirrels or raccoons, making new problems beyond birds.
- They may be drawn to the warmth of your home through wall or roof vents, and stage a break in.
- Birds can collide with your windows, harming themselves in the process.
How Can You Feed the Birds Most Effectively?
Even with all the problems of feeding the birds, you can still offer them a winter meal. Offer food that is higher in fat, such as suet, peanut butter or black oil sunflower seeds. When you’re putting out feeders, stick to one type of food in each feeder. This decreases the interaction between different types of birds and reduces waste. Choose feeders with an outside cage that prevents larger birds and animals from reaching the food. Also, feeders made of plastic, glass or steel are easier to maintain than wood or clay. Place bird feeders as far back in your yard as possible to discourage birds from coming close to your house.
Wash the bird feeders every four to six weeks using hot, soapy water and then let the feeder dry in the bright sunlight to allow the sun’s UV rays to kill germs. Clean up the ground where the feeders are. The mess on the ground can be hazardous to the birds and to your own pets. Don’t put out table scraps or bread for the birds. Those items don’t provide enough nutritional value and can become mouldy.
If your bird feeders attract wildlife that you don’t want, don’t try to remove the animals on your own. Call in the professionals with Skedaddle to handle wildlife or bird removal services to stay safe.