With the threat of cold winter weather, Indiana's local bird population needs help finding food, water and shelter. You can turn your backyard into a favorite haven for a wide variety of feathery friends.
To attract the greatest number of birds, it is important to offer several different bird feeders scattered throughout the yard. Feeders most useful in winter have a wide cover over feeding ports, perches and dispensing trays so seed is not buried during snowfalls. Ideally, feeders should be placed at the south side of your home to catch winter sun. They should be placed in a sheltered location near protective cover such as hedges or a brush pile to keep birds safe from predators.
Feeders need to be cleaned and sterilized regularly to minimize mold, mildew and other unhealthy conditions that cause disease among backyard birds. Make sure to clean feeders after each storm so seed is easily accessible.
The best foods to offer birds contain a high fat or oil content which provides energy for winter survival. Nutritious winter foods for birds include:
Black-oil sunflower seed--eaten by almost all birds.
Peanuts--de-shelled, dry-roasted and unsalted are high in protein and a high energy food.
Suet--high in fat which provides energy and helps birds stay warm. Suet can also tolerate the colder temperatures.
Mixed seeds--combining sunflower seeds, cracked corn, millet and maybe some peanut hearts creates a tasty treat for most birds.
Thistle--especially good for small finches.
Safflower--a favorite food for cardinals.
Cracked corn--broken into small, manageable bits for birds. Squirrels and deer love cracked corn also.
Fruit--an important dietary element for birds. Set out grapes, slices of citrus fruits, apples or banana slices.
Ground dog biscuits--loved by bluejays and chickadees.
Birds also need water for drinking and bathing. A heated birdbath will provide birds with liquid water all year long.
Leave nesting boxes and birdhouses up to provide winter roosting areas.
By taking care of wintering birds, you can enjoy their lively backyard antics from the comfort of your warm home making these long, cold months not so bad.
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