Black oil sunflower seeds are popular among Tufted Titmice and other birds.
Photo by Dave Smaldone.
Fall is typically a slow month for bird feeding due to the abundance of natural foods budding from trees, plants and fall flowers. Here are a few “Tips & Tricks” to increase your enjoyment through fall & winter.
A messy yard is better for attracting birds during the fall. Create a brush pile out of dead tree branches and place it close to your feeders. This will provide safe cover for the smaller birds. If possible, consider leaving some leaf piles on the ground
instead of raking all of them up. Many insect-foraging birds will find tasty morsels hidden underneath the leaves. Blue Jays, Chickadees, Titmice and Nuthatches will hide their food in the brush piles. It’s like having a jungle gym for the birds. Come
winter, instead of throwing out your live Christmas tree, lay it on the ground close to your bird feeders where it can also offer shelter for the birds.
High-energy suet is probably one of the most important offerings you can provide for your birds during fall & winter. Suet is a quick source of energy and a great way to substitute for the protein-rich insects that are hard to find in winter. Keep an
extra supply of suet cakes in your freezer so you won’t be caught without it during the cold winter months.
A source of unfrozen, fresh water is vital to birds in winter. Offering fresh water in your backyard will double the amount of birds you can enjoy during these colder months. Birds need water to preen and clean their feathers. This helps insulate their
bodies from the harsh weather. Invest in a heated birdbath or heating element for your existing birdbath. At the very least, place a small bowl of warm water out each day for your birds.
Convert your Bluebird boxes into roosting boxes by wedging two pieces of dowel rod between the inside walls of the box creating a top and lower perch. This will allow 6-8 Bluebirds or other birds to huddle together in extreme weather.
Offer protein-rich foods: Black oil sunflower seed has a high percentage of meat and is a very nutritious source of high-quality protein. Cardinals, Chickadees and Nuthatches especially like Black Oil Sunflower seeds. This seed also boasts a high
concentration of oil which is especially important in the winter. Birds will use their oil glands to spread the oil over their feathers to keep them insulated from the cold wind and air.
Safflower seed is also high in protein and will deter European Starlings considered by many to be a nuisance in most backyards, especially during the winter. Safflower has a very hard outer shell which makes it difficult for Starlings to open,
therefore they ignore it.
If you experience a deep snow; use the back of a snow shovel to pack down the snow, then sprinkle bird seed right on the surface. Make a snow cave by digging out some snow around your deck or patio. This will provide added protection. Dark Eyed Juncos and Titmice will dart in and out when feeding.
Keep a good stock of birdseed in case of emergencies. You don’t want to get caught short when you need it most and the weather has gone bad. Consider storing more seed during the winter, or better yet, put a couple of bags in the trunk of your car. It won’t spoil during the cold. The extra weight will give you added traction when the roads are slick, and you’ll always have a ready supply on hand for your hungry winter visitors!
• Catch up with Scott and stock up on backyard birding supplies at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Suncrest Towne Center, Morgantown.
by Scott Cavallaro, Wild Birds Unlimited
originally published in our Fall/Winter 2019 newsletter