November chores include bringing things in: houseplants, tools. But there’s something you’ll want to put out at this time: birdfeeders. Many varieties of birds are looking in nature’s pantry for something to eat right now and finding it as bare as the trees that such a short time ago were covered with leaves and fruit. By making an effort to keep our feathered friends well fed, you will provide them with much needed sustenance, and they will provide you with a source of delight all winter long. As Jennifer Brennan of Wilmette, Illinois puts it, “having eight cardinals to enjoy with your winter coffee makes living here worthwhile.”
But the satisfaction of feeding birds goes beyond their visual appeal and delightful songs. As Chris Packham explains, “It makes me feel good about myself, knowing I could be helping a bird survive the winter and go on to raise chicks next year…. You can see the good you’re doing the way the birds just pile into your garden looking for food.” He knows of what he speaks: as vice president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in England, he is well aware of what birds are up against in the winter.
Birds that have been weakened by illness or injury will not have the stamina to migrate. Other birds migrate through areas that have been built up to the extent that green areas are far and few between. They need a little help to survive from the biped species that paved over their habitat. Other birds are non-migratory, but they still face slim pickings in the winter, especially if a snowstorm has buried their food. Imagine their relief when they find a birdfeeder stocked with seeds or suet!
Some people worry that birdfeeders might disrupt migration patterns or increase nest predation, but major environmental organizations such as the Audubon Society give birdfeeders an enthusiastic two thumbs up. In fact, in an article entitled The Winter Feast, published by Audubon Magazine, Steven W. Kress argues that bird feeders have such a positive impact on bird populations that ideally every household should have at least one.
If you’re looking for a feeder, we have an more than one hundred: everything from window feeders like our best-selling Window Café, to feeders designed to attract specific birds such as finches, to an All Weather Feeder that will keep seeds dry even in horizontal rain, to artistic feeders with various stained glass designs, to novelty feeders that look like barns or carriage lamps, to those popular wire-mesh No No Feeders that can hold more than two pounds of seed.
By the way, we carry all the fixin’s: sunflower seed, peanut seed, Nyjer seed, and suet. To keep seed from littering the ground and attracting squirrels, we sell the ingenious Seedhoop Seed Catcher. We also have a variety of squirrel-proof feeders, including the award-winning Heritage Farms Absolute II, which is another one of our bestselling birdfeeders.
If you want to solve your squirrel problem by feeding the little guys (and gals) directly, we also sell squirrel feeders. Heck, you can even throw a squirrel party with our Food For A Crowd Squirrel Feeder, which is only $12.75. If any squirrel comes to you and complains that he and his friends are still hungry after you stick a bunch of ears of corn onto this feeder, we’ll refund your money, no questions asked!
Birds Cannot Live By Seed Alone
Besides food, birds also need water—especially after ponds and puddles freeze, and the fruits and berries that served as secondary water sources are no longer available. Making water available will attract an even wider variety of birds than a feeder, and the combination of a feeder and a birdbath is unbeatable, especially in the winter.
We sell a heated birdbath that will stay ice-free all the way to 20 degrees below zero! It can either be placed on the ground, or mounted on a rail or post, and comes in terra cotta or blue powder finish, depending on which model you choose. In any case, the bowl is easily detachable: a key feature, as you’ll want to change the water and clean it regularly.
To be frank, if you’re serious about providing birds a place to drink and bathe year-round, you might want to go with another model that isn’t heated, and simply place a de-icer into it during the winter. The reason is that no single birdbath contains all the features recommended by ornithologists, yet it is possible to get a birdbath that has everything but a heater.
For example, the Birdbath and Solar Fountain almost has it all: the pedestal design keeps the bowl off the ground and thus out of reach of cats and other animals; the weathered stone base makes it unlikely that any animal will knock it over (unless you have bears around). The bowl is 2” deep and rough inside, just what the pros recommend, and—best of all— the water does not sit around but circulates constantly, propelled by a solar powered pump.
This last feature is important for several reasons: besides the fact that birds love moving water, standing water needs to be changed much more often, and when the weather warms up it provides mosquitoes a place to breed, including those that might carry West Nile disease. Thus getting a birdbath with a fountain is definitely the way to go for year-round use, and having it be solar-powered eliminates the need for a cord or batteries. For tips on birdbath placement and care, see this helpful guide.
In writing about the needs of birds, we’ve covered food and water, but we’ve left out one more essential: shelter. Next issue, we’ll discuss what you can do on your property so that visiting birds will not only stop for a meal and drink, but possibly to spend the night—or many nights.
We’ll close with a little poem by the nineteenth-century British novelist Thomas Hardy that articulates a bit of the winter birds’ plight that we spoke of earlier:
Birds At Winter Nightfall
Around the house the flakes fly faster,
And all the berries now are gone
From holly and cotoneaster
Around the house.The flakes fly!—faster
Shutting indoors that crumb-outcaster
We used to see upon the lawn
Around the house.The flakes fly faster,
And all the berries now are gone!