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Not all birds fly south for winter

Special to the Daily

Winter is tough living for all of us! We bundle up, bears hunker down and elk generally migrate to lower elevations (so do many people). Non-migrating wild birds, such as finches, woodpeckers, starlings, stellar jays, juncos, doves, house sparrows, pine siskins, chickadees and nuthatches, tough it out and stick around. The majority of their natural food is unavailable during the winter. Vegetation has been consumed or withered and insects have died or gone dormant. Providing a backyard feeder, even a water source, makes life easier for the birds and provides enjoyment for young and old, even indoor cats.

Finding Winter Food

Birds typically feed on insects and spiders in the spring and summer, however in the winter, they switch to fruits and seeds to survive. Black oil sunflower seeds attract the greatest number of birds. Black oil seeds have a high meat-to-shell ratio, are nutritious and high in fat. These seeds are also easy for smaller birds to handle and crack. Nyjer, formerly known as thistle seed, is the preferred seed for small finches and requires a feeder with small ports that prevent a free fall of tiny seeds. Peanuts are a popular food for many backyard birds as well. Suet, beef fat and peanut butter are incredibly high energy food sources that are very appreciated in cold climates like ours. Suet is offered safest and easily in suet cages. There is a large variety of suet cakes available, with fruit, insects, peanuts and more, to attract a wide variety of birds. Other foods are corn, whole or cracked, millet and striped sunflower seeds, shelled, whole, un-shelled and chipped. With all the choices, a versatile wild bird blend is often a great place to start. Our blend includes black oil sunflower seed, safflower seed, white and red millet, sunflower seed and cracked corn.

For general wild bird feeding, there are seed dispensing feeders and suet cages. Some seed feeders are specific to the type of seed. New models of feeders have versatile ports, allowing you to adjust for any type of seed. Also look for feeders that have adjustable perches. This feature allows you to set your perch length in accordance with the size of bird you want to attract. Other features to look for are ease of filling and cleaning, and squirrel guards.

Feeder Placement Matters

Feeder placement in your backyard matters. Hang from a strong branch or eave or mount on a pole or post. Trees or bushes nearby will provide escape from predators. The feeder height should be at least four to five feet off the ground to keep it out of reach of critters. To prevent collisions, do not place your feeder too close to large windows. Be patient, it may take a couple of days to a week or more for birds to discover new sources of food. If a few weeks pass with no birds, then try sprinkling a little seed around their hanging locations. Birds use their vision to find food, and this technique will help them locate your feeders.

Birds need water throughout the year, just as they do food. Birdbaths are another way to attract birds to your feeders. Wild birds have exceptional hearing, and the sound of moving water will draw them in. A dependable water source will attract many birds, even those that do not visit feeders. There are many, easy birdbath options; however most important for winter is to use an immersion water heater or a birdbath de-icer.

Poorly maintained feeders can cause health issues for your birds. Feeders should have the ability to dispense the food almost completely, to avoid waste and residue build-up. Clean your feeders at least once a week by using a mix of vinegar and warm water. Clean your birdbath often and keep it filled with fresh water.

At Colorado Alpines & Wildflower Farm, we have specific seed and suet, as well as feeders, perfect for the birds you can expect to see in your backyard.

For more, connect with Colorado Alpines & Wildflower Farm on several social media channels. When connected, you’ll receive current news, seasonal tips and exclusive discounts. Colorado Alpines, providing full landscape services, and Wildflower Farm, the valley’s only year-round retail garden center, are both located in Edwards on U.S. Highway 6. Reach them at 970-926-5504 or email info@thewildflowerfarm.com.


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