When the foliage is down and bird feeders are full, many of us are drawn to bird watching. There are several steps you can take to attract and keep birds close to home. Here are some interesting winter bird facts that will help you be a better steward for the birds in your community.
Warmth Birds employ a variety of methods to stay warm in the winter.
More down: Some birds will grow additional feathers in the winter to stay warm.
Fluffing: By fluffing their feathers, birds create air pockets that increase the feathers’ insulating value.
Slow down: Like bears and other animals that slow down or hibernate in the winter to conserve energy, some birds do as well. By slowing their metabolism/heart rate, they conserve valuable energy.
Gather around: More social birds, such as chickadees, gather together at night. By roosting together in tree hollows, nests and other pockets, the birds use the heat generated by the group to stay warm.
What You Can Do: Keep bird boxes clean.
Keep trees that have cavities for birds to use as nesting spots.
Water During the winter, fresh water is crucial to survival. While birds can eat snow, the energy used to turn snow into water can be straining on the bird. Rather than travel great distances, burning valuable fuel, birds gravitate to fresh water sources, such as heated birdbaths.
Preening: Extra feathers are of little use to a bird if they cannot be kept clean. Unkempt feathers have a reduced insulation value—leaving the bird vulnerable to the cold.
What You Can Do: Keep at least one birdbath in the garden. Heated birdbaths are great. Clean and keep consistently filled with fresh water.
Provide a safe zone around the water that is free of hiding places for cats and other predators.
Food Birds need to burn more calories to stay warm in the winter. To plan for leaner months, some birds make caches of food: nuts, seed and such for winter consumption. Birds will also seek out hibernating/dormant insects and bugs in tree bark or rotting trees.
What You Can Do: Do not remove dead or dying trees (unless it is a possible hazard) These ‘dead’ trees are places for birds to find insects and bugs as well as cavities for resting.
Provide a variety of food sources via live vegetation and feeders. Suet, thistle, sunflower, dried berries and fruit and other seed assortments kept readily available will benefit a diverse population of birds. Start feeding and providing fresh water for the birds in the late summer and fall to acclimate them to your yard and establish the yard as a reliable food and water source throughout the winter.