Monday, December 5, 2011

It's for the Birds!

As cold weather approaches, it's easily to forget about anything outside. But life does go on, and cold temperatures can be particularly tough on our winged friends. It's more difficult for birds to find food. Insects become more scarce. Snow can cover and freeze the berries that they often feed on. Seed is the main source of food during the winter, and without it, birds can starve. It's also very important to keep making water available. Make sure to keep your birdbaths clean and the water fresh!

Some of the best winter foods include:

BLACK OIL SUNFLOWER SEEDS - Black oil sunflower seeds are by far the best food to offer birds in any season. These seeds have slightly thinner shells and a higher oil content than other types of sunflower seeds, making them a more efficient and nutritious food. They will attract a wide range of hungry birds, and can be offered in platform, tube or hopper feeders.

SUET - For high calories, suet is one of the best foods to offer birds. While many birders prefer to avoid suet because it will melt in warmer weather, it is a superb winter food. It is also available in many blends with different ingredients to tempt different species of birds, and it is easy to make your own custom suet blends specialized for your backyard flock.

PEANUTS: Peanuts are a high calorie, fat-rich nut that appeals to many backyard birds, including jays, titmice, nuthatches and chickadees. Because the nuts don't freeze, they are perfect for winter feeding, whether you offer whole or shelled peanuts. Peanuts are also popular to mix with suet for winter feed.

NYGER: Nyger or thistle seed is a favorite food of winter finches such as pine siskins and common redpolls. This is another oily seed that offers a lot of calories, helping birds store fat they need to keep warm through the season. Though expensive, nyger is readily available and is typically treated so as not to germinate if spilled on the ground.

FRUIT: While a lot of songbirds that prefer fruit will migrate in the winter, many other birds that stay in snowy areas year round will enjoy the treat. Offer chopped apples, orange wedges, banana slieces, halved grapes and melon rids on platform feeders, spikes or nailed to trees. Chopped or dried fruit can also be added to suet mixtures.

MILLET: White proso millet is a favorite food of many small ground-feeding birds. This starchy grain is inexpensive and can be easily offered in hopper, tube or platform feeders, and sprinkling it on the ground will attract even more small birds.

SALT: Many birds crave salt as an essential mineral, particularly in the winter when roads are regularly salted. Unfortunately, feeding on the side of the road can be deadly for birds, and offering salt crystals at your feeders will help keep them save. Create a strong saltwater solution and let it evaporate in a shallow dish to make larger crystals, or poor it over a log or stump if there is no danger of freezing.

SEED MIXES: For convenient and economical winter feeding, nothing beats a good quality birdseed mix. Choose a mix that features large proportions of sunflower seeds and millet, but avoid mixes with large proportions of unappetizing fillers such as wheat, milo and corn.

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