Larry Collins
Free Press Birding Columnist

Back to: News
January 3, 2013
Follow News

COLLINS: Helping birds stay warm during winter

A: You can help your birds stay warm by offering the right foods that have a nutritious blend of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Here are some examples:

• Offer suet, treats containing suet or peanut butter, and birdseed blends with nuts to help birds, such as woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, wrens and others, maintain their high metabolic rate.

• Suet is a no-mess, high-fat food that attracts nut- and insect-eating birds.

• For carbohydrates, try offering your birds fruit such as diced raisins, grapes, apples and dried fruits.

• Nyjer is 50% fat and protein, and it's a favorite of goldfinches, Pine Siskin, and Purple and House Finches.

• Nyjer has a thin shell that small-billed birds can easily open - saving them time and energy as they eat their food.

• You may want to offer Nyjer in a hanging feeder or tray for House Finches and other large-billed birds that cannot readily eat from a Nyjer feeder.

• Offer a birdseed blend that contains primarily black oil sunflower, safflower, and millet seeds. Millet is high in carbohydrates and is especially good for attracting ground-feeding birds, such as native sparrows, juncos, towhees, quail and doves.

• These blends can be offered using any regular seed feeder or ground feeder.

• Try not to offer blends containing milo, oats and wheat. These seeds don't have a lot of nutritional value for the birds and are often used by some seed manufacturers as fillers.

Typically, your feeders serve as a supplemental source of food for birds in your yard. In contrast, during periods of cold and severe winter weather, your birds may switch to utilizing them as the critical source of food that enables them to survive from day to day.

A three-year study in Wisconsin concluded that when temperatures fall below 10 degrees, Black-capped Chickadees without access to feeders have only a 37% survival rate as opposed to the much higher 69% survival rate for those able to utilize feeders.

If chickadees are representative of other feeder birds, then your feeders can make a big difference in the number of birds that survive the winter.

Also, birds may burn up to 10% of their body weight in stored fat each night to stay warm...and this fat must be replaced every day.

Be sure to keep your feeders filled with the high-energy, high-fat foods that provide your birds with the crucial nutrition they need to survive.

Explore Related Articles

The Post Independent Updated Jan 3, 2013 02:48PM Published Jan 3, 2013 02:46PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.