Feeding the winter birds
While some birds migrate south for warmer temperatures, other prefer to stay in the neighborhood. When feeding those who choose to stick around, you should be sure that you are giving them the nutrients that they need to survive in the colder temperatures.
According to Wild Birds Unlimited, it is important to provide birds with high-calorie and high-fat foods that will give them the sufficient amount of nutrition. Black Oil Sunflower is a good overall seed to offer in the winter. It has a high-calorie to ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content.
Suet is another winter food for birds. It provides birds with a high-energy, pure fat substance when it is hardest to find. It can be fed in a variety of feeders. Another suggested food is peanuts because they have higher protein and fat levels. They are often used as an ingredient for suet.
“Many birds have a hard time finding food in the winter time. Many birds are adept at finding their own foods when they eat insects or some sort of seed, but in the winter time that food becomes more scarce,” said Liz Schmid, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in High Point. “When the weather gets really cold they need a lot more calories to keep warm. Extra high fat and high-energy foods are especially helpful to maintain their body temperatures when the weather is inclement.”
The nature shop also recommends that you locate feeders out of the wind. The east or southeast of your house or a row trees is the suggested area, with a perching spot. The feeders should be positioned near cover but in the open to allow the birds to watch for danger.
“Why make it harder for them and cause them to expend more energy to eat if they have a covered place and they are protected from the wind. That makes it a much better dining experience for them,” Schmid said.
Like any other animal, birds also need a source of water in the winter. Wild Birds Unlimited suggests that birdwatchers provide an open water source for the animals and use birdbath heaters so that the water does not freeze.
“Water is extremely important to birds all year round,” Schmid said. “Water is particularly important to birds because they use it for drinking, bathing and keeping their feathers in top shape. Their feathers provide their security and safety because they fly. Good feathers will also provide insulation for the birds.”
For more information about bird care, contact Schmid at Wild Birds Unlimited at (336) 841-2572.
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Birds unique to and visiting the area
• dark-eyed junco
• white-throated sparrows
• hooded merganser
• yellow-bellied sapsucker
• red-breasted nuthatch
• pine siskin
Tips from Sonny Hedgecock
• Feed consistently - Don’t let feeders stay empty
• Feed high-quality food - Most cheap bird formulas have a lot of ingredients that the smaller birds can’t eat
• If you want to keep it simple, feed them black oil sunflower seeds and suet
• Don’t feed them bread - The birds will eat it but it doesn’t have the calories they get from sunflower seeds
• The premium mixes are good. They usually contain striped sunflower seeds as well as black oil, peanuts or millet
• Many birds eat suet, but the Woodpecker family benefits especially from it
• If you want to make your own, a good recipe is:
- one large can of peanut butter
- one three pound can of land
- five pounds of plain cornmeal - do not use self-rising
- one large package of raisins
- one three pound coffee can of black oil sunflower seeds or premium mix
- You can also add dried berries
In a canner, melt the peanut butter and lard on low heat. Add the cornmeal, slowly stirring to break it up and keep it from clumping it. Add the raisins and then the seeds, stirring to keep the mixture from hardening.
Move quickly to put the suet into containers, as it sets up almost as soon as you put it in the containers. Use a disposable plastic glove to fill the suet feeders.