Winter Feeding and Feeder Maintenance
As the temperature drops, make sure to provide and maintain a variety of feeding options for your backyard feathered friends. High fat and high energy foods such as suet, peanuts, and black oil sunflower seed are great choices to offer as they are high in protein and calorie content.
While most seed feeders easily accommodate black oil sunflower seed, special feeders are available for shelled peanuts—such as Droll Yankees’ 13-inch Woodpecker Feeder, available in the Nature Store for $27.99—and for suet. Suet, which is composed of rendered fat, comes in cake, ball, or plug form, and in a variety of flavors. Cakes slide easily into a double or single suet cage feeder and suet plugs can be stuffed into suet logs. Our Nature Store stocks an assortment of suet feeders and suet cakes and plugs in a variety of bird-approved flavors.
Most suet is “no melt” and can withstand rain or full sun, but special consideration should be given to the location of feeders in the winter, for both suet and seed feeders. If possible, try moving feeders to the east side of your yard, away from direct exposure to wind or heavy-downpour. If this isn’t an option, there are a variety of feeders that have covers. Plastic squirrel baffles or rain domes can also offer protection from the elements. Even for protected feeders, it is still important to check uneaten seed regularly and change feeders at least once a week to make sure that the seed is fresh, un-clumped, and free of mold or mildew.
Keeping feeders clean and providing more than one seed feeder in your yard, patio, or balcony, not only allows for greater distribution of food but also prevents crowding which is a key factor in spreading disease such as Salmonella. Watch for lethargic, “fluffed-up,” less active birds at your feeders. Finches are especially prone to this disease and sick birds are usually easy to spot among the others. If you spot sick birds at your feeder, remove your feeders and sterilize them by immersing in a nine to one water/bleach solution and rinsing thoroughly. Keeping your feeders down for several days to a week will allow for the sick group of birds to move on.
Don’t forget the hummingbirds! Make sure hummingbird nectar is replenished and feeders are cleaned at least once per week. Droll Yankees’ “Perfect Little Brush” (available in a set of 3 for $3.95 in the Nature Store) is ideal for cleaning small feeding ports. On nights when the temperature drops to freezing, bring the feeders inside and put back out first thing the next morning. Keep any bird baths thawed as well as water aids in keeping birds’ bodies well-insulated and feathers waterproofed.
Stop by the Nature Store for more winter feeding tips and to browse a diverse selection of wild bird feeding options and bird supplies.