How can I help wild birds in the winter? How about squirrels?

Kim Eierman

Kim Eierman

Founder of EcoBeneficial!

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How can I help wild birds in the winter? How about squirrels?

How can I help wild birds in the winter?  How about squirrels?

Answer:

You can start planning now for spring plantings to help support migrating and overwintering birds.  But, there is something more immediate that you can do today – provide a clean, fresh (unfrozen!) water source for overwintering birds.  Clean water is often the hardest resource for birds to find on their own – especially in the parts of our country where the temperature drops below freezing.

There are a number of good heated bird baths available – I use the Kozy Bird Spa – it isn’t cheap, but it is well constructed and has lasted for a number of years.  It is critically important that you keep any bird bath clean – scrub it well at least once or twice a week, and do not let algae form.  Birds tend to poop where they drink – so make sure to keep the water fresh.  I push the bird bath close to a rock wall so that squirrels can take a drink easily, as well.

I will discuss plantings for birds in detail at another time, but keep in mind that you should keep perennials standing through winter to provide some seeds for seed-eating birds.  Not all birds eat seeds, so make sure to plant trees and shrubs which bear fruit.  Fruits which are less palatable to birds, such as winterberries, become sweeter after freeze and thaw cycles.  This is nature’s way of keeping a food source around when winter conditions are harsh.

I supplement my native plantings in winter with high quality suet, sunflower seeds, and fruit for overwintering birds.

If you want to help squirrels through the winter, keep in mind that even though they love sunflower seeds, peanuts and corn, these foods alone do not provide squirrels with proper nutrition and can cause serious dietary deficiencies including Metabolic Bone Disease.   Healthy squirrels need a varied natural diet, so provide them with natural and supplemental food sources, including native nuts, seeds and berries.

Squirrels also need a regular source of calcium – you may see them licking the mortar between bricks when they cannot find a natural source.  A great way to help them is to provide them with deer antlers and with dog bones.  These materials offer squirrels the calcium that they need as well as an appropriate material to gnaw on to keep their teeth in check.

Hope that helps!

Kim

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