Winter can be a tough time for wildlife. Colder temperatures and less availability of food makes every day a challenge, and Bird Feeding 101 is your guide to helping the wildlife around you. Many animals have adapted to the cold weather and know to stock up on food during the late summer and fall. However, winter is the perfect example of that adage “less is more.” With the leaves falling, there is less vegetation and a greater chance to see wildlife out and about. Birds are easier to view on bare branches and rabbits take longer paths to find vegetation to hide. Bird feeders and baths can aid birds during the winter and enhance your wildlife viewing. Some types of seed to place in your feeder are sunflower, white millet, golden millet, safflower or niger seed. Cardinals, chickadees, grosbeaks and sparrows enjoy cracking the thick sunflower and safflower seeds. Millet is a favorite with ground-feeding birds including towhees, juncos, sparrows and everyone’s favorite colorful bird, the Painted Bunting. Interested in what we have been seeing around Kiawah Island lately? Check out the Feather Reports on Wildlife: As We See It for Naturalist sightings during our Back Island Birding and Birding for Beginners tours.
Deciding where to place your feeder can be a difficult task. You want a quiet place where you can see the feeder and easily refill it. If you want a feeder near your house, try affixing the feeder to your window or window frame. This will significantly reduce the likelihood and severity of a window collision. Placing your feeder close to trees and shrubs offers a resting place for birds and a quick refuge if a hungry hawk flies through. However, if the feeder is too close to cover, nearby branches can provide jump off spots for hungry squirrels and cats. Don’t want to purchase a feeder or seed? Fruit is another option in attracting birds. Cut up slices of oranges to attract Baltimore Orioles as they migrate south. Looking to get the family involved? Pick up pine cones around the yard and cover them in peanut butter. Roll the pinecones in peanuts or bird seed and place them in your backyard. Bird baths are another option that supplies birds with fresh water to drink and bathe in. Be sure to change the water every day in order to reduce the growth of bacteria.
Some birds to look for over the winter season: chickadees will feed constantly throughout the day, staying very active. On colder days birds will fluff up their feathers, creating air pockets to help keep the bird warm. Titmice are very social birds, traveling together in groups in search of acorns and other seed that they stored earlier under loose bark. You may see Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers picking at older trees and finding cavities to roost in. Now that you have your feeder or bird bath up in your yard, sit back, relax near the fireplace, and look out the window for some winter visitors.
Naturalist, Kristen Lococo