The crisp chill of winter is here. For those hardy backyard birds that overwinter in the Pacific Northwest, food supplies are dwindling. Keep your feathered friends well-fed during these cold months and they’ll thank you with a song.
Tips for feeding wild birds, safely and responsibly:
1. Give them choices. Think variety is for the birds? Well, you’re right. Different types of birds will flock to different types of feeders and food, so mix things up.
Variety is also important as far as food is concerned. Some birds, including finches and grosbeaks, only eat seeds and nuts. Others rely on both plant and animal sources of food. For the seed-eaters, if you’re going to buy just one seed, reach for black oil sunflower—it will appeal to the largest variety of backyard birds. Insect-eaters such as woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches like protein-rich suet and peanuts—these foods are like energy bars for winter-weary birds. And goldfinches love nyjer seed.
2. Find a safe perch.There are lots of things to consider when you’re choosing a spot for your birdfeeder: swooping hawks, pouncing cats, thieving squirrels and more. Find a place that’s easy for you to view and access, and that’s dry and protected from the weather and predators. Caged perches and squirrel baffles are available to keep small predators from stealing the food. You could also try putting a cob of corn in a different location to divert squirrels from raiding your feeders.
3. Keep it clean.At least once a season, clean your feeder to protect your feathered friends from disease. Empty out remaining seed, scrub with soap and water, soak in a light water and vinegar solution (20 parts water to 1 part vinegar), rinse, and dry thoroughly before refilling.
4. Make a splash.Water can really set your backyard bird bistro apart from the rest. In cold weather, bathing can help birds improve the insulation capacity of their feathers. An ideal bath is shallow (1-2 inches), and sheltered from surprise attacks. If freezing temperatures are expected, add hot water to your bath in the morning or invest in a bird bath heater specifically designed for outdoor bird baths. Any circulating water birdbath will prevent freezing and has the added benefit of creating soothing sounds for your backyard oasis. Molbak’s has a large selection of winterized birdbaths to grace your garden.
5. Plant bird-friendly favorites. Treat your backyard birds to a berry feast by planting PNW native berry producing shrubs.