Wintertime can be tough on every species. In mid-Atlantic, northern and mid-Western regions of the United States, and throughout northern Europe, temperatures during the winter months drop significantly, and vegetation and food sources become more scarce. While many animals have inherent methods and can successfully adapt to seasonal changes, it really doesn’t hurt to provide an extra food source, particularly when it constitutes an invitation to activity and natural beauty for your winter garden.
I’m particularly fond of watching birds, and keep a feeder up pretty much year round. In the US, where I live, there are several worthwhile bird species that bring abundant color, song and quaint behavior to my backyard. I’ve seen song sparrows, house sparrows, brown wrens, tufted titmice, goldfinches, chickadees, juncos, American robins, blue jays, Eastern bluebirds, beautiful, red cardinals, towhees, flickers, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and thrushes. Not all of these are seed-eating birds, but many frequent my feeder.
In winter, feeding activity takes on a heightened level of energy. It’s not a frenzy, exactly, but birds of varying species congregate with more focus and intensity. Some become bullish and try to dominate the feeder, but demand often forces them to back down, and give way to the hungry crowd. It can be so entertaining to watch from inside.
While I am no expert, I did find some good tips here and there for winter bird feeding. I consider feeding the birds a gesture of conservancy, and am happy to encourage your enthusiasm for this easy, beneficial hobby. First, feeders that have a cover of some sort to protect perches and trays are preferable, especially in inclement weather.
Second, it is important to find a good location for your winter feeder; a spot that is sheltered from wind, and relatively near protective cover (such as a hedge or trees) in the event of predators is ideal. Another important consideration about location is the proximity to your house and windows; you want the feeder close enough to be able to watch your feathered guests easily from inside, but also far enough away from windows to prevent them from crashing into the glass. I’ve read that a distance of five feet or less is ideal.
Third, it is important to keep your feeder clean. Moisture can build up in seed that stands in your feeder, and consequently build mold. So change your seed with relative frequency, clean your feeder when you fill it, and be sure that the feeder is dry when you do so.
Online you can find a variety of delightful bird feeders for use year round. There are covered feeders suitable for winter seed, and there are open tray feeders for spring and summer use. Each is artfully designed to add an element of refinement and artistry to your garden, and each reflects craftsmanship excellence. And for birds that don’t eat seed, you can find some wonderful suet feeders, which are particularly beneficial in the winter. (Suet, by the way, is fat from meat, and you can usually get this for free from your local butcher or grocer’s meat department.)
All feeders are made in America, and any would make a lovely gift.
Enjoy creating a winter haven for the birds…and enjoy their beauty in your winter landscape!