Attracting Birds in Winter

Simple steps to a delightful refuge for wildlife.

By Sally Roth

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By the time winter settles in, birds have, too. Migration is long over, and winter birds are ranging in groups over large foraging territories. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • High-calorie suet is vital to keeping birds warm in winter. Hang as many suet feeders as you have room for. I like to decorate the strong-limbed shrubs in my front yard with fist-size chunks of suet wrapped in a red plastic onion-bag mesh. If a bird or raccoon rips through the netting, it's no great loss; I just add another.
  • Keep a supply of suet in the freezer so you don't get caught short. I chop it into manageable chunks before storing so I can take just what I need and not have to wrestle a big frozen hunk.
  • Lay in a stock of seed in case of emergency. You don't want to get caught short when you need it the most. I keep a 50-pound sack of sunflower seed in the trunk of my car in winter. It serves two purposes: extra traction when the roads are slick, and extra bird food should a blizzard descend.
  • Run an immersible heater to the birdbath, or try a solar birdbath that uses the sun's heat to keep water from freezing. At the very least, you can put out a shallow pan or clay saucer of warm water once a day. Take it into the house when the water begins to freeze.
  • Treat birds to home cooking by making muffins, bread, and other snacks with nutritious additions like sunflower seeds and nuts.
  • Expand the menu by offering chopped nuts, doughnuts, raisins, and fresh orange and apple halves in feeders.
  • Put out cracked corn and ear corn for squirrels, deer, and other wildlife. Apple peelings are also appreciated.
  • Recycle your Christmas tree as a bird shelter in the winter garden. It'll keep juncos and sparrows snug during storms and on chilly nights.
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