Rainy days and Sundays always get me down when I can not garden!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Winter Birds

To say it was cold the past few days is a understatement.  The bird bath in our backyard was more like a skating rink then a watering hole.  Even the creek was starting to ice over in places.  This got me to wondering how birds survive the winter and what we human can do to help?

In the winter, birds have three primary concerns, food, water, and shelter.  We feed the birds all year long. However, if you only feed the birds in the winter, try to set your feeders out by September to attract the birds to your yard.  Birds will collectively look for feeders, only to fight over them once they do.  Placing several feeders in the yard will help with this.  In addition, we choose to feed our birds better blends or premium bird seed. We find that the less expensive varieties are filled with fillers that the birds (and squirrels) do not eat, thus ending up on the ground.  Winter is when I also make and put out suet.

Have you ever wondered how birds stay warm?  My parrot Louie fluffs up his down feathers to trap in body heat. Others grow more feathers to insulate them from the cold.  Some birds slow down the metabolic rate, while others huddle together at night for warmth.  By keeping your birdhouses up during the winter, you may be providing shelter for some birds.  At the end of summer, I go around and clean out any birdhouses that I can reach.  That way the birds can use them during the winter and scope them out for the next spring nesting season as well.

Birds can eat snow in the winter, but it requires more energy to keep warm. If water is scarce, birds will have to travel in search of a water source.  Lack of water not only causes dehydration, but with out it, birds are unable to preen their feathers.  Preening helps to keep feathers in place, reducing gaps and loss of body temperature.  In the winter, we use a heated dog bowl to provide water.

I love watching the birds in the winter.  I found our feeders are much more active, giving us lots of viewing pleasure.

 I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

‘We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,’
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
—Oliver Herford

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