Do you feed the birds that overwinter in your neighborhood? I am a bit torn on the subject. We fill our feeder sporadically, which used to make me feel guilty. If you don’t have a feeder filled regularly, the birds don’t know to come there. Without a steady stream of birds at your feeder, you lack the beautiful entertainment they provide.
I have begun to wonder if that isn’t really for the best. If the birds in your area know they can always find a meal at your feeder, will they lose some of their skills at foraging? I’ve seen articles arguing both the merits of feeding and warning against it, so I’m not really sure where I stand.
If you feed sporadically like me, it may interest you to know that there are some other things you can do that are potentially even more helpful than providing a free handout.
Ways to Help Winter Birds in Your Area
How many eggshells do you throw out or compost in a year? If you have backyard chickens you may already know the value of these seemingly useless receptacles, but did you know that they are also good for the wild birds?
Most wild birds require a bit of help identifying the eggshells, so it is best to mix them with another household product- grease! Here’s how to prepare them:
1. After making your breakfast egg, thoroughly rinse out the inside of the egg shell and place it aside to dry.
2. Each time you make bacon (or another type of meat), pour the grease off your pan into a jar or can for saving in the fridge.
3. After you have gathered several egg shells, crush them using a mortar and pestle or a food processor.
4. You can follow a recipe for suet, or simply stir together a few bits of dried fruit or seeds along with that bacon grease you’ve been saving.
5. Serve outside near your feeder.
I once saw a heated birdbath and thought it was a bit over the top. Turns out, it’s a pretty good idea.
If you have a stone birdbath you can pick up a small submersible heater that is meant to keep livestock water from freezing. Birds need water in the winter just as much as in the summer. Surprisingly, birds bathe even more in the winter. They use the process to keep warm. They also appreciate a fresh drink from time to time when there isn’t any snow around to eat.
Be sure to keep your birdbath in an area where the birds feel they have chance for cover if the neighborhood cat comes by. Try positioning it next to a dense bush that is thorny and still within reach of the electrical outlet for your heater.
We love our winter birds. One of my favorite sights is when the cardinals come in on a snowy day to eat the hawthorn berries at our front door. Winter birdwatching is perhaps even more spectacular at this time of year.
We can all do more to plant things that provide winter food naturally, but hopefully I have inspired you to think beyond just the food when it comes to winter help for the birds.