Winter can be a difficult time for birds. The days are short, and nights are often cold and long. The natural food supply has been consumed or is hidden by snow. Most insects are dead or dormant. Water can be hard to find, and food needed to provide the energy to keep birds warm might be scarce. Finding shelter becomes difficult.
Birds are warm-blooded. They maintain their body temperature within a certain range even when the temperature around them changes. The maintenance of body temperature within a normal range depends on the amount of heat the bird produces.
To keep up their high metabolic rate, most backyard birds eat rich, energy foods such as seeds, insects and suet. In harsh times it's helpful to have feeders full so that birds can find food easily.
As winter approaches, you may need to change some of the foods you offer to birds. Providing high calorie and high fat foods can be important to the birds.
Feeders should be located out of the wind. It is best to have a perching spot such as a bush or tree to provide sufficient cover for safe refuge from predators and shelter from the wind and weather. The feeders should be positioned near cover but in the open to allow birds to watch for danger.
Placing seed in a ground feeder entices birds such as sparrows, juncos, mourning doves, towhees and brown thrashers. Platform and hopper feeders are especially good for attracting cardinals, wrens, chickadees, titmice, and blue jays. Hanging feeders, because they blow in the wind, are generally used by those species that are able to hang on while feeding such as chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and finches.
Black Oil Sunflower is a great overall seed to offer in the winter. It has a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content and its relatively thin shell. Black Oil Sunflower has twice the calories per pound than striped sunflower and its smaller shells make less mess when discarded by the birds.
Suet is a great food to offer many of the birds. Suet is a high energy, pure fat substance which is invaluable in winter when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm.
Suet can be fed in a variety of feeders ranging from suet cages to suet logs that are designed so the birds can hang upside down.
Peanuts are another great food to offer birds. Peanuts have high protein and fat levels and are often an ingredient in suet products. Offering peanuts in a peanut feeder can provide a good source of protein for birds.
Birds do need a source for water in the winter. You can help by providing an open source of water. Bird baths are a great way to do this and in winter should be heated with a heater to help prevent the whole bath from freezing.
It is always a good idea to cover ceramic bird baths to keep the water out in the winter. You can put out a plastic dish with an added heater or a bird bath with a built-in heater in place of the ceramic bird bath.
Some products can be kept out all winter, if the proper bird bath de-icers are used. Check with a sales associate about the best kind of heaters to use in bird baths and ponds.
Roosting boxes or natural plant covers can also aid birds seeking protection from cold weather. Shelter is also needed for protection against natural predators, such as birds of prey. Be sure to clean out old nests from houses to help reduce the possibility of parasitic bugs surviving the winter. It also allows birds the opportunity to roost in a clean house.
Winter can be a great time to feed and enjoy the birds!
Article Credit: http://www.wbu.com/education/winterbirdfeeding.html