Winter Survival Tips for Your Birds

Black and white bird on tree branch wintertime

When severe weather impacts wild food supplies, some species of birds will turn to bird feeders as a critical food resource. It is during these times that feeders play their most vital role. If a storm is of long duration or extreme impact, a feeding station may mean the difference between life and death for these birds.

Freezing temperatures are only one factor that birds must overcome in order to survive winter. Wind, storms and wet weather can also rob birds of their ability to stay warm, even at moderate temperatures.

The most often overlooked winter survival challenge for birds is having to endure a long period of darkness during a winter night.

Songbirds and other small passerines may use up 75-80% of their fat reserves in one winter night. Their daily challenge is to find enough food to not only make it through each day, but to also replace their fat reserves for the coming night — all in the course of limited daylight hours.

Winter Survival Tips for Your Birds:

Feeders:

  • Keep birds dry while they dine. Add a dome cover or hanging baffle to your feeders. Not only will it help keep the squirrels out of your feeders, it can provide your birds some protection from the elements while they are eating.
  • Placing seed in a ground feeder entices birds such as sparrows, juncos, doves, quail, pheasants, towhees and thrashers.
  • Position feeders near cover but in the open to allow birds to watch for danger.

Food:

  • During winter, consider changing some of the types of foods you offer to birds. Many non-migratory birds change their diets to replace insects and vegetation from the summer months. Providing high calorie and high fat foods is important when temperatures drop.
  • Suet is a high-energy, pure-fat substance which is invaluable in winter when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm.
  • Fat is the most concentrated energy source that a bird can consume and stored body fat is the primary energy supply that fuels a bird between meals and through these long winter nights.
  • On cold nights, sleeping birds need high calorie foods to keep their bodies warm.
  • Seed/Suet Cylinders are a great option in winter! They last long and do not have to be filled everyday like traditional feeders. They come in a variety of blends and suet that provide great winter time calories and energy.

Heated Bird Baths / Bird Bath Heaters

  • Birds need water in winter to help stay warm and to properly digest food
  • Provide a reliable source of water for bathing and drinking.
  • Add a heater to existing bird baths or use a heated bird bath to keep water from freezing.