Cold weather can be particularly taxing on many of the birds individuals discover in their backyards throughout the year. Although some species migrate to warmer climates each winter, many stay put and attempt to ride out winter in their normal habitats. Birds that tend to stay put include finches, sparrows, titmice, jays, woodpeckers, chickadees, and cardinals.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that, in much of North America, winter days can be windy and cold for birds, and nights are even more challenging. In winter, birds no longer have berries and lush vegetation to consume and insects have died or gone underground. Since finding food can be especially difficult, and shelter may be scarce, many birds can benefit from a little help from their human friends.
Wild Birds Unlimited says shelter for birds is hard to come by in winter. Trees have shed their leaves, and evergreens may not be as abundant or protective. As a result, birds frequently seek man-made structures that can provide refuge from the elements.
People can provide shelters for birds, which may include traditional birdhouses and windbreaks. Even a brush pile can simulate the natural shelters of trees and shrubs that birds prefer. Roost boxes are another option and one that can accommodate small flocks that will group together and share their body heat.
Use leaves and branches to provide natural camouflage and help attract birds to the shelter. Offer yarn, fabric scraps, cotton, and other insulating materials that birds can use to help make their shelters more comfortable.
Birds require high-calorie and high-fat foods in the winter so they can keep up their metabolism to generate warmth. Also, since birds’ feeding habits vary depending on the type of bird, it may be necessary to place feeders at varying heights to maximize access.
Feeders should be located out of the wind and in an area that offers safe refuge from predators. The National Wildlife Federation also says individuals should put out sizable feeders and/or use multiple feeders to provide ample food during storms. Feeders should be checked regularly and kept full.
Consistency is also important because birds will grow accustomed to being supplemented with food and may depend on such supplements to survive.
Bird Watcher’s Digest suggests a variety of foods for birds. Black-oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, suet, cracked corn, millet, thistle seed, safflower, and various fruits can help many birds thrive. It’s also suggested to include mealworms, which can be purchased at bait stores or pet stores. These larvae of beetles can be presented in a shallow dish with slippery sides so the worms cannot crawl out.