Getting ready for the winter months 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.”
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 bird feeder 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 feeders an enthusiastic two thumbs up. In fact, in an article entitled The Winter Feast, published by Audubon Magazine, Steven W. Kress argues that with such a positive impact on bird populations that ideally every household should have at least one bird feeder.
Birds Cannot Live By Seed Alone
Besides food, birds also need waterespecially 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.
It is important to use a heated birdbath that will stay ice-free all the way to 20 degrees below zero! They can either be placed on the ground, or mounted on a rail or post. Just make sure you 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.
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!