Posted By: Michelle Kuehler /
Longing for spring: warmer weather, budding plants and the beautiful sound of wildlife in your garden? Many birds choose to stick it out in the cold winter weather but winter can be treacherous for our little friends if they cannot find food, water and shelter. When winter rolls around the trees lose their leaves which provide birds protection from predators and from the elements. Most of their food sources are also often buried under snow and water sources may freeze. Help out by providing these necessities and attract a little life and music to your winter garden, too.
There are many plants which provide winter food sources for birds and many are quite ornamental in the winter as well, brightening up your garden with color and birdsongs. Many shrubs and small trees bear fruit in the winter which glows against the winter landscape and makes for a great winter food source. These include American Holly, Winterberry, Hackberry, Cranberries, Flowering Dogwood, Staghorn Sumac, Red Chokeberry, Crabapples, Washington Hawthorne and Eastern Red Cedar. Many species of Evergreen also provide seeds in the winter. Ornamental grasses also provide winter beauty while providing seeds. Try Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Switchgrass and Indian Grass. Many perennials and annuals provide plenty of food in the spring, summer and fall but a few provide seeds or hips into the winter if you wait to deadhead them until early spring. Sunflowers, Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans provide fatty seeds which are converted into energy by birds.
If you do not have these plants in your garden and cannot wait until next winter to help out our feathered friends, there are other ways you can provide food. Oily seeds or nuts are a great source of energy for birds during the winter. Set out or fill a bird feeder with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, safflower seeds or a birdseed mix. Many larger birds such as Woodpeckers and nuthatches do not eat seeds. Provide them with a good source of energy by giving them suet. Suet is raw beef or mutton fat. Ask for Suet at your local butcher or meat counter. You should also invest in a suet feeder.
When the weather drops below zero many of the natural water sources freeze and birds have to look elsewhere for water sources. They can eat snow for water but it uses vital energy for their bodies to process the cold snow. Place a shallow dish of water out each morning or buy a warming water bowl. Just make sure that the amount of water is always shallow so that they will not be tempted to take a bath in it.
Evergreens are one of the most important sources of safety and shelter during the winter because they maintain their leaves during the winter months. Ornamental grasses can also provide groundcover if planted in thick patches. You can also buy bird houses or nest boxes for nesting birds but make sure to clean them out after nesting season. Lastly, you can build a simple brush pile with fallen twigs, branches or rotting wood. Just toss them in a pile, whether big or small. This will provide birds with quick protection from predators, if they need to flit away in a hurry.
Birds can bring joy to your garden and remind us that spring is never too far away. Their songs are lifting and watching them flit around can be a rare treat during the winter months when there is so little life in our gardens. If you give them what they need they will stick around, bring friends and give you joy all winter long.