How Birds SURVIVE WINTER…and how we can HELP

Robin in the snow

While year-round bird feeding is a source of enjoyment for our family, nothing beats the rewards of winter feeding.  There is no better time to view wild birds than winter.  The bare trees provide very little camouflage, which makes bird activities more visible.  Winter is a very fragile time for wild birds, and not all birds survive it.  Birds that winter over have acquired some adaptive behaviors that help them survive, but they also rely on humans for survival during these crucial months.

Wild birds have many different ways to stay warm and conserve energy in winter.  Some species can grow additional feathers as the temperatures drop which thickens their insulation.  Some use the practice of feather fluffing, a process that puffs out the down feathers to create air pockets, which gives a bird better insulation and traps body heat…..kinda like the down jackets that keep us warm.  Particularly small birds like Robins can be seen puffing up their feathers throughout the season in an effort to keep the heat in.

Other birds, especially the more social species like Chickadees, stay warm at night by roosting with other birds in tree cavities or nesting boxes.  We can help by cleaning out our birdhouses at the end of the breeding season, so birds can use them for their winter home.

Winter also provides another challenge for our feathered friends since most of their natural food source has withered away.  Not only has the birds food sources changed, their nutritional needs have also changed.  Foods high in fat and oils will help supply the energy needed for the cold nights ahead.  Black Oil Sunflower seed, peanut hearts, nyjer seed, and safflower seed is excellent choices that will please a large variety of wild birds.  High-energy suet is probably one of the most important offerings you can present to your birds.  Suet is a quick source of energy and a great way to substitute for the protein rich insects that are hard to fine in winter.

Remember, feeding wild birds in the winter is a great way to give something back to the wonders of nature that we enjoy year around.  So…get ready and enjoy the winter show. Our feathered friends will benefit and so will you and your family!â–

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