During the winter months, heavy snow, ice, and freezing winds are no stranger! It’s no surprise that we worry about our feathered friends. Some birds migrate to get away from bad weather, but not all species of birds do. For those that stick around, the winter weather limits their food source and shelter options and leaves them relying on us to help them survive.
The most basic way to help is to provide ample food and shelter. Feed the birds only what they need. A seed mixture that includes sunflower seeds, nyger seeds, cracked corn, millet, oats and wheat is best. Leave the mixture out continuously, or at least several times a week, so it remains fresh. Be careful not to leave seed out during freezing temperatures as this could lead to frostbite.
Additionally, cardinals, blue jays and black-capped chickadees are creatures of habit. They will typically stay within a small area once they have found good food and shelter. Attract these birds by leaving feeding stations for them around your yard. Another way you can be the life line that these birds so desperately need is by creating a nesting sanctuary for them in your backyard.
Creating a nesting sanctuary for endangered birds is an excellent way to help them and encourage their population to grow. Leave a few branches of nesting material such as cattails and grass clippings in a sheltered spot in your yard for whooping cranes (the tallest birds in America) , who love to make their homes in the upper branches. Woodpeckers prefer to stick to the lower branches, and can be found making their homes in trees or large bushes like magnolias , a native tree. We provide peanuts for these birds to help them digest their hard shells, so they’ll happily toss some out and recycle them for their own eggs, and for other birds that need shelter. Be sure to change out the peanuts once a week to keep them fresh.
After the nesting season has concluded for the birds, collect all the nesting material that has been used and refill the nests with peanut shells only. Remember to only put out nesting material and peanuts during the cold months and keep them out for no longer than a week at a time before removing them. This will keep mold from forming. Avoid using large-size peanuts because many birds choke on large ones.
To keep birds happy and healthy during the winter months, use minimal amounts of oil and try to avoid using pesticides, which can harm the birds. In addition, consider purchasing feeders and food that are designed to help birds and reduce the risk of harm to them.
Caged birds also need extra care. Consider feeding them natural foods, such as apples, squash or dried mealworms . Warm the water they drink to around 70 degrees. A birdbaths that have a heater to keep the water warm can be great, but some birds prefer to be soaked in a bath with a heated water bowl. Make sure there is a clean, fresh supply of water for your birds to drink.
When winter hits, all of us want to make sure we are taking care of those around us. Don’t forget to stop and think about our wild neighbors before they start to feel the cold of winter.
Ways to Help Birds in Bad Weather:
- Provide plenty of food and shelter.
- Provide nesting material for birds to make nests.
- Put out peanut shells only for woodpeckers.
- Provide a secure habitat for birds.
- Build a birdhouse with no entrance hole for birds.
- Put ground oyster shell, mealworms and cooked rice in the birdhouse for birds to have food in the winter.
- Use minimal amounts of oil.
- Purchase feeders and food that are designed to help birds.
- Collect and recycle nesting material for birds.
- Leave a heating device for birds to stay warm.
How cold is too cold for baby birds? – Baby birds need a heat source but how cold is too cold? Is 40 degrees too cold for baby birds? What if it is a wet 40 degrees. Well the answer is yes, it is too cold for baby birds. Many people are concerned about baby birds that have fallen from their nests and many misconceptions exist surrounding these plucky little creatures. Let’s take a moment and dispel some of the myths.
Myth – It is better for baby birds to fall from their nests because they are still okay deep down in the nest, and it protects them from predators.
Truth – It is best for baby birds to stay in the nest because mother birds can sometimes still feed them through the night if they do fall. If baby birds do fall, they will probably freeze to death or worse, be eaten by predators.
Myth – If a baby bird is not able to fly, it cant be hurt by falling out of its nest.
Truth – Baby birds who cannot fly simply freeze to death when they fall from the nest so its best not to experiment. Baby birds that have not fully developed flight feathers will not be able to get back into the nest.
Myth – Soaking a baby bird in warm water is a good idea because it is so cold.
Truth – Baby birds that have fallen from their nests need warmth, but not too much. Just enough to take the chill off. Too much heat can actually kill the bird, as can putting the bird under a heat lamp that is too close.
Myth – Baby birds can survive without food for weeks in their nests and miraculously be fine.
Truth – Baby birds are not built to hibernate and need to be fed at least twice a day, best done with gummy mealworms. Baby birds that are 3 or 4 weeks old can try eating greens; and those who are older, are able to eat suet and nuts.
Myth – Baby birds can survive longer without water than food.
Truth – Baby birds will sometimes take food and water from their parents bill, but they need an absolute minimum of water, as they are unable to go to the water source like grown birds. If you find a baby bird in need of help, you can always call a local wildlife rescue to ask what is best for that situation.