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Friday, January 08, 2010

Stokes Feeder Friday, Help the Birds in Cold

Tree Sparrow at our feeders. A beautiful little northern sparrow with a rusty crown and central breast dot.

It's cold and snowy across much of the nation, brrrr. It's snowing here in NH. We really make an effort to help out the birds during this hard time and provide the red carpet treatment here. The more snow and ice cover things, the more their wild food is difficult to get. Granted there has been a lot of wild food available this fall, with lots of people saying there are less birds at their feeders. But when the temps really drop it can pose problems for birds. They need more food to keep their bodies warm. They need sheltered places to sleep. Birds do not store much fat on their bodies (if they did, they wouldn't be able to fly) and many species cannot go more than a day or two without eating in severe weather.

The above photo shows some of the things we have done. We made a shelter out of some boards and a frame for wire drawers. This makes a sheltered place on the ground where we put mixed seed millet and some seed cakes. This is really helpful to many of the species who feed on the ground such as Mourning Doves, juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Fox Sparrows and sometimes Tree Sparrows. These species eat seeds off the ground and when snow covers the seeds it may be harder for them to find food than the chickadees who can poke into pine cones in the tree tops.

Also shown is one of our feeder set-ups with multiple feeders hanging off a pole with a squirrel baffle. We put our Christmas tree on a stake near the feeder and the birds love it. They use it as a landing place to wait their turn at the feeder and use it as a place to hide from danger. Several kinds of feeders hold various seeds such as hulled sunflower, mixed seed with black oil sunflower and several suet cakes. Suet is a superb winter food as the high fat content is packed with calories birds need to fuel their furnaces.

We also keep the feeders full. I hate to see the seed drop below the level of the upper feeder portals because that means some of the seats in our avian restaurant are not available. Thus there's more competition for available seating and some birds may not get the food they need.

Shoveling or brushing the snow off the upper feeders is important, especially first thing in the morning and in the later part of the afternoon. In the morning birds really need to refuel after the long cold night. In mid-to later in the afternoon, they must stock up and gobble the calories to get them through dropping temps. Arctic cold will prevail over much of the central and eastern parts of the country through the weekend, so stay warm and think of the birds.

1 comment:

amy b said...

I realized I needed to restock the 'ground' seed when I saw a dark eyed junco flapping its wings furiously to get seed from a seedcake in a wire cage. There is no telling how much energy he burned trying to get my attention! We have no snow on the ground here--just lots of competition from squirrels and deer.