As the weather recently became colder and we have snow on the ground here in our beautiful northeast Iowa, it’s a good time to think about how the birds are managing this winter, especially because our winters are known to be hard on all animals and not the greatest on our back shoveling either, for that matter. Many people overlook the importance of winter bird feeding. A bird’s survival can be a struggle, but winter can prove to be harsh, increasing their vulnerability in our area as most of you know. Their metabolism is fragile to the winter environment. Sufficient food and water is vital and we can help and exchange we can enjoy watching them in the warmth of our home, making the winter months fly by since in my experience more birds come to my feeders in the winter than any other season. And it's a great chance to take photos of your feathered friends too! Before you know it you will be hooked on bird watching by simply feeding the birds and by spring you may be taking out your binoculars on your walks looking for the birds you have learned to label by getting an Iowa Field bird field guide book.
How do birds manage to survive on our northeast Iowa winters with such cold temperatures? I have found out that the covering of the food source is their main problem and that is why hanging bird feeders and continuing to feed them as they become dependent on you can help this tiny birds survive our harsh winters. After it snows, I like to through out on the ground or deck unsalted peanuts and it is great food source for them and fun watching them. If you do this every day at the same time they will start perching on your deck or trees around waiting, they seem to know to tell time and sometimes help remind me to feed them on hectic days.
You could help our bird friends survive another cold winter simply by filling your feeder with some black oil sunflowers and filling up your suet feeders, I do a mixure of different bird seed for different birds. Offering suet to birds all winter is probably the best way for birds to get quick energy and build fat reserves for those long, cold nights.
To get the most bird traffic in your backyard during the winter, place feeders at different heights and locations. You may see new visitors throughout your area as the birds fly out of their typical winter ranges in search of food.
Birds need water year round, even in the winter. Birds are smart enough to grow accustomed to a routine, so if you put out warm water each day at a certain time they will come. When the water freezes, bring it back inside. Birds have a keen sense of depth perception and will know not to jump in. This year we purchased an inexpensive small birdbath heater and put a rock in the birdbath so the birds can stand on that if they are small while they drink. We bought a heated dog dish for around $20 that works well if you put big rocks in for they don't get themselves wet. I took the photo above shows a male red-bellied woodpecker getting a unshelled peanut when the temperatures dipped down into the below zero category and they also liked to get a drink after they ate. You will see more birds by your feeders also if you supply water I found out.
Keeping these tips in mind will help keep the birds healthy all winter, and in return, you will be rewarded with knowing you've helped the birds survive the bone chilling winter--besides having lots of colorful visitors to watch and soon the migrating birds of spring will arrive, okay maybe not soon, but before you know it! In the meantime enjoy the colors of winter with our fine feathered friends. Happy birding!