Bird watching and feeding is a great way to sit back, relax, and take pleasure in the beauty of nature during the winter months. With just a little effort to understand which bird species will visit your yard and what is best for attracting and feeding them, this family friendly activity is educational as well rewarding. Be a conservationist this winter, by hosting and feeding our feathered friends…here are a few handy tips to get you started.
The birds you will see during the winter are dependent upon the region you live in as well as the landscape of your backyard. With that said, there are several common species in our area including finches, titmice, woodpeckers, cardinals, jays, sparrows, chickadees, and more. Maryland is a host to a wide variety of birds so be on the lookout for juncos and nuthatches as well this winter! A great reference is The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, which will aid you in identifying the birds that visit your yard.
Both hopper and platform feeders work well during the winter, but look for a few characteristics that enhance their performance. It’s important that seed is protected and doesn’t get buried during snow storms, so look for a feeder with built-in cover. Additionally, a larger capacity feeder is preferable so you don’t have to go out into the cold to refill it as often. Your bird feeder should be placed in an area that is protected from wind, which not only makes it more inviting but also shelters the feeder, preventing winter storm damage. Remember to clean your feeder to prevent mold or mildew from developing, as well keeping platforms and perches free from snow and ice. It’s also a great idea to begin setting out seed in the fall – birds will know to stick around your yard once food becomes scarce.
During the colder months, many birds find their foods of choice, such as insects and fruit, become much more difficult to find. As a result, they tend to rely on seeds as their primary food source (so you really are helping the environment!). Here are some of the most common options that bird enthusiasts set out to entice winter birds to visit:
- Hulled peanuts / peanut hearts
- Hulled sunflower seeds
- Black oil sunflower seeds
- Peanut butter
- Thistle seed
- White millet seed
- Suet cakes
A great DIY project is to gather pine cones, coat with peanut butter, roll in seeds, and hang from the branch of a favorite tree. This is a terrific craft project for snow days!
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