Birds in Winter
How can I help birds in winter?
One important step in supporting birds is to provide them with a water source. Water is often the hardest thing for birds to find for themselves at any time of year, but especially in the winter. I use a heated birdbath that I plug into an outlet on my patio. I position the birdbath next to a stone wall so that squirrels can reach it too. And, – very important – I keep the birdbath clean and make sure that algae is not accumulating.
You can’t do much about planting for birds at this time of year in most parts of the country, but you can start planning for the spring. Different species of birds have different nesting requirements – some are ground nesters, some prefer shrubs, and many utilize understory trees or large canopy trees. Emulate the natural areas you see around you, and plant regionally native plants in the appropriate layers that occur naturally. By doing so, you will provide habitat, nesting sites and food sources that are appropriate for birds in your region.
Until your landscape is filled with native plants providing birds with natural food, it is acceptable to provide seed and fruit over winter. Just realize that you are artificially supporting a bird population this way. The best approach is to create an ecosystem in your landscape with natural food sources, including plenty of insects for hungry fledglings.
For some great information on specific birds and what they need, take a look at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website: www.birds.cornell.edu.
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