With the onset of winter here in North America I thought this would be a great time to share a few tips regarding the housing, food and water needs of birds and other wildlife. Do bear in mind that birds especially can benefit from our hospitality year round, not just during the winter. Ideally they should be offered a variety of foods at any of the “big four” feeding stations: ground, table or window shelf, free-hanging feeders, and feeders fixed on tree trunks or posts. A ground feeder can be as simple as a low stump or split log and table feeders can be placed from 3 feet high to as high as your hand can reach to fill them. Just remember to place all feeders about 10-12 feet from shrubs or brush piles where predators can be lurking.
A mix of seeds can attract a greater variety of species, just take note of any type of seed that remains uneaten and consider making your own mix. Mixed wild-bird food comes in different grades and price is often an indicator of quality. (Cheap supermarket mixed bags are generally not worth the investment.) Read the label and check to be sure that black-oil sunflower seed or sunflower meats are a major component. Safflower seeds are also favored by cardinals as is niger seed by finches.
You can also make good use of your family’s leftover’s and foods that are on their way to the compost bin. Birds aren’t choosy about the perfect stage of ripeness after all. Old bakery goods and wilted veggies from the discount bins at your grocer are another good option. Have left-over dog or cat food that your pet turns his nose up to? Offer that to the birds also! Here are two yummy and easy bird food recipes – Easy Popcorn Balls and Southern Kush Kush.
As for squirrels and chipmunks, you may actually have success luring them away from your bird feeders by providing them their own feeding stations. Just be sure to place it as far away as possible from your bird feeders. Corn, acorns and nuts served on the ground frequently and in generous quantities, as well as corn of the cob, can be a good distraction. Just be sure it’s a good distance from your home and monitor it so that you are not attracting any unwanted guests (such as rats).
Many people also enjoy feeding deer during late autumn, winter and early spring. But although supplemental feeding of deer may be gaining popularity, do be aware of the many problems that winter feeding may exert upon them and their habitat. More information on this topic can found in this report by the Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for the State of Maine.
And don’t forget to provide water, too. Many people overlook this important necessity. Ideally, you should offer several shallow containers placed at either ground level or higher throughout your property. Just remember to keep an eye on them during freezing temperatures.
Shelter is equally important during the onset of winter here in North America. Native trees and shrubs and even brush piles are valuable shelter options. The Etsy treasury above shows examples of some of the many lovely housing and feeding options available on the site. And of course any of the items shown would make great gifts this holiday season! Just click any item to be taken directly to that creator’s Etsy store.