WILD ABOUT BIRDS: Preparing your yard for winter feeding | PostIndependent.com

WILD ABOUT BIRDS: Preparing your yard for winter feeding

European robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Many birds change their summer diet of insects and vegetation to a greater amount of high-fat, high-energy foods to fuel them through the long winter months or for their upcoming migration. Prime fall foods include suet, peanuts, peanut butter, tree nuts and sunflower.

Our resident birds are choosing their winter territories now. Access to feeders with quality foods, not only provide a great meal today, but can influence their decision to choose your yard for later this winter.

You may be able to capture migrant feeding activity in your yard. Some migrating birds wait until the week before they depart to put on all the extra fat they need for their trip south. Other migrants will stop along their southerly route to refuel. Active feeding stations will catch their attention and attractive foods will give them the needed fuel.

Clean feeders and fresh food are as attractive to birds as a nice meal in a clean restaurant is to us. With the nicer weather, now is a great time to prepare your yard for fall and winter feeding.

You can clean feeders with warm, soapy water (rinse well) and then sanitize them in a 10% bleach solution. All feeders should be cleaned out on a regular basis.

Providing shelter for birds is a great way to help keep them in your yard throughout these colder months. Cold nights are taxing on them and cold winds strip heat from birds very quickly. Protect the birds from weather by locating feeding stations out of the wind and about 10 feet from cover so birds can watch for danger. Add a weather guard (dome) to a feeder set-up to keep birds and bird food dry and protected.

Repair feeders as needed or replace those that cannot be fixed. Clean out debris under feeders, too. Your winter ground-feeding birds (juncos, towhees, doves and quail) will thank you.

Install roosting boxes or clean out nesting boxes and plug the ventilation holes to help trap warmth in the box.

You may want to plant dense vegetation that can provide refuge for birds from the weather. Fall can be a great time to do this.

Leave spent plants standing to provide natural food sources and protective cover for the birds. Sparrows will flit to the top of the plants and “ride” them to the ground to feed on the seeds. Juncos and towhees will scratch the ground for dropped seeds.

A reliable, fresh water source is highly attractive to our backyard visitors and fall and winter can be a tough time to find it. Birds need water to stay hydrated and maintain their feathers for effective water-proofing and insulation.

Keep water fresh by replacing it on a regular basis. Keep it available during freezing times with a heated bird bath or adding a heater to a plastic, metal or stone bird bath.

Local bird expert Larry Collins owns Wild Birds Unlimited, 2454 Hwy. 6&50, which caters to folks who want the best backyard birdfeeding experience possible. Email your birdfeeding and birding questions to lcollins1@bresnan.net and he’ll answer them in his bi-weekly Q&A column in the Free Press.

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