The winter months can be tough on humans, pets, and homes. But cold weather is no picnic for birds, either.
Because they are warm-blooded creatures, most birds are not well-suited for winter conditions (which is why so many of them migrate southward prior to the season). Some birds, like the American goldfinch, grow more feathers in wintertime to keep them warm; while others ruffle their feathers to trap body heat, like the Carolina chickadee. Like humans, many birds will shiver in order to generate energy to battle the cold.
However, these stopgap measures might not be enough to allow birds to survive, especially in severely cold weather. That’s why it’s vital that they have access to safe and warm nesting areas.
Homeowners can help birds find adequate winter shelter by providing dense shrubs, trees, or vines that don’t lose their leaves during cold weather. When possible, create brush piles and leave cavity-laden dead trees alone so birds can huddle together and survive low temperatures.
Another approach is to construct nesting boxes for birds that stay in your yard. Just be sure to clean all nesting material out of the boxes prior to winter so birds can roost in them more efficiently. If you wish to erect multiple nesting boxes, it’s wise to cut different-sized holes in them in order to attract various types of birds.
Food, Glorious Food!
Of course, birds need more than shelter to endure a harsh winter. Unfortunately, much of the food sources they rely on in milder conditions (like bugs, seeds, fruits, nuts, and weeds) become more scarce as the mercury drops.
Bird lovers can help their feathered friends survive by putting out ample amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods so birds can stay warm. Suggestions include:
- Black oil sunflower seed
- Nyjer thistle seed
Ideally, bird feeders should be located in a spot near good cover but that also has a wide view of the surroundings. This serves the dual purpose of permitting birds to keep an eye out for and hide from danger if necessary. Also, keep the feeders out of the wind as much as possible; placing them near your home or a row of trees is a good idea.
Bring Me Some Water
Like food, water can be difficult to find during winter, since many of the natural sources are frozen. Though it is possible for birds to eat snow, it requires more energy to raise it to their body temperature than it does to drink water.
If you have one or more birdbaths in your yard that tend to freeze up, placing a heating element or de-icing device on or inside them can thaw the ice and snow into safe drinking water for birds. Some birdbaths are available with pre-installed heating elements; or you can simply place a sturdy plastic dish atop a heating element on your property.
Something In The Water
Some people think it’s smart to repurpose snowmelt and water from their home’s gutters so it can aid thirsty birds. They either put a dish near the bottom of their downspout, or cut off their downspout and direct runoff into a birdbath.
But this water is not drinkable for birds because it contains too many contaminants. After all, the water that emerges from a downspout has already collected shingle tar, animal feces, and harmful environmental microorganisms as it runs down your roof and through your gutters. So unless you have a built-in filtration system attached to your gutters (like some complex rainwater harvesting systems do), it’s imperative that you don’t encourage birds to drink it.
In addition, birds may try to nest inside your gutters once snow and ice begin to thaw as the weather warms. While your gutters might provide decent shelter for your birds, the debris they use to build nests can block the flow of water runoff – which could result in gutter overflow, water damage, leaky basements, and even foundation problems.
One way to address this issue would be to invest in a gutter protection system. Harry Helmet can install a high-quality gutter guard that keeps birds and debris out of your gutters while allowing runoff water to enter unimpeded. Plus, you can keep your existing gutters, and you’ll never have to clean out your gutters again!
If you’re interested in the patented Gutter Helmet gutter protection system, contact Harry Helmet today for a free, on-site estimate. Because you don’t want a subpar gutter system that’s (literally) “for the birds.”