Winter Bird Feeding: Bringin' in the Birds

Birds require increased caloric intake during the winter months just as the harsh weather tapers off their pickings. Follow these winter bird feeding techniques to keep the birds healthy and pleased.

| February/March 2004

  • Male Northern Cardinal
    A male northern cardinal on the approach to a backyard winter lunch.
    Photo by Maslowski Wildlife Productions
  • 202-020-01
    Hey, winter's a tough time for humans, too. Fortunately, we have our feathered friends to put a brighter face on the season. Through winter bird feeding, you'll be able to watch their cheerful antics as they come and go at your feeders.
    Photo courtesy Mother Earth News Editors
  • Male Red Bellied Woodpecker
    A male red-bellied woodpecker enjoys sunflower seeds.
    Photo by Maslowski Wildlife Productions

  • Male Northern Cardinal
  • 202-020-01
  • Male Red Bellied Woodpecker

Whoever came up with the expression "eats like a bird" to describe someone with an eensy appetite never watched wild birds in winter. Although feathers do a fine job of insulating a small bird's body from cold, food is the fuel that stokes its inner fires, keeping its metabolism generating crucial heat and energy. From sunup to sundown, an overwintering bird's focus in life is to feed its face. Most small species need to eat from 1/3 to 3/4 their body weight in food each day. No gluttony here, though; the name of the game is survival, pure and simple. No food, no tomorrow.

Unfortunately, at the same time wintry weather forces birds to increase their caloric intake, it also reduces the pickings — meals become hard to find. Gone are summer's salad days, when tasty insects filled the air and leaves were acrawl with plump larvae. Fall's harvest of ripened seeds and berries has passed, too. What seeds remain are covered by snow or thinly scattered to the winds; ice coats tree buds and fruit.

Winter, in other words, is tough on birds. And this is where we humans come in — not only to the birds' benefit, but to ours as well. According to surveys, about 1/3 of adults feed backyard birds, doling out roughly 500,000 tons of commercial birdseed a year, along with countless quantities of suet cakes, seed logs and other treats.

We do it partially to help the birds, of course. Although most birds are able to forage successfully despite the bleak and bone-chilling conditions, mere beak-to-mouth survival does not an easy life make. Feeders enable birds to find food faster and more easily than searching for tiny weed seeds and bark-buried, semifrozen grubs. Less searching may also mean less risk of predation.

But the truth is, we feed birds to nourish our own winter-weary souls, too. Somehow watching birds flit from feeder to bush to branch, to feeder to bush to branch, lifts our spirits. Putting out feeders not only gives us a closer look at our feathered friends, but also gives us a greater sense of kinship with the creatures sharing our natural world.

Here are some ways to help you, your family and your backyard birds benefit more from winter bird feeding:

12/29/2015 5:52:44 PM

while delivering papers today we saw several wild turkeys trying to figure out how to get to the food in a bird feeder. Never saw such a sight before but might want to keep that in mind when placing bird feeders because if they could figure out how to get to it they could go through a LOT of bird feed. And we would like to let you know, you can get a FREE copy of "Our Survival Essentials " during our FREE Promo days Dec 30, 31st 2015 and Jan 1st 2016, So remember to grab your free copy during the next three days

Mother Earth News Fair Schedule 2019


Next: April, 27-28 2019
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me