FEEDING OUR BIRDS
It’s Winter: Set the Table!
The bears are done feasting, it’s a great time to start feeding winter birds. Many of our bird species have returned to their tropical habitats to avoid the cold and the low food supply. The species that remain in Colorado for the winter need to increase their food intake just to stay warm. Some well-fed birds may even produce more eggs the following spring.
Winter is the time when food is scarcest, and many birds benefit from supplemental food sources. The basic foods to feed in winter are black-oil sunflower seeds which are high in protein and fat, thin-shelled and easy to crack; a high-quality seed mix (bird specialty stores have the best); and suet. Plain, unsalted, roasted peanuts are good too (also best to obtain from a specialty store). Suet can be purchased in cakes or you can make your own and hang it in a suet feeder. Nyjer or thistle seed is a delicacy eagerly consumed by all the small finches. Nyjer requires a special tube feeder with tiny thistle-sized seed holes or a thistle sock.
Feeders need to be kept clean and cleared of snow. Give seed feeders a shake to dislodge compacted seed and dump out any old bits. Wash feeders with mild soap and water every week or so and dip in a bleach solution (1 part bleach and 9 parts water) to disinfect. Allow the feeder to dry and fill’er up.
Hang your feeders at least 10 feet or less than 3 feet from windows to avoid collisions. Keep your feeders well stocked especially when it’s very cold out. Place your feeders about 10 feet from trees or shrubs; this distance provides some cover but makes it difficult for other animals such as squirrels to reach the feeders.
Open water is often very difficult for birds to find in winter. Birds are easily attracted to a heated birdbath. A rock that is only partly submerged provides a good spot for birds to land and drink. In extreme cold birds that bathe or get their feet wet can freeze. Avoid this by using a plastic grate that lets the birds’ bills access the water rather than their feet or feathers.
A simple recipe for making your own suet comes from our friend Gina Gerken. Mix chunky peanut butter and regular flour until you get a consistency that is no longer sticky so it doesn’t cause a problem for the birds’ beak and mouth. The secret is mixing it out on the counter. You knead it in like you’re making bread. You can add seeds or raisins but you don’t have to. Birds love it as it is. Store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. Alternatively, check out the recipe from the Audubon Society.
Now go inside and watch the show from the comfort of your home.
Village Wildlife Committee