Winter landscaping with nature in mind can sustain birds | Living
In the dead of winter, we can’t overlook our brave, feathered friends who share the neighborhood.
Although many birds seek warmer climes, those who stick around for a high-fat diet attract fruits and insects, as well as a source of water and shelter. There are roughly 35 species reported to be found in this area of Pennsylvania in January, and you can see them in your yard if they find it inviting.
Keep your feed troughs clean, covered, and near the protection of a shrub or branch in case a predator approaches. A source of running water is ideal as birds are drawn to movement and noise. If not, a heated bird bath provides an even source of water. Otherwise, keep your water in a sunny spot, add small dark stones to attract most of the sun, and add fresh water daily. Try adding a few floating twigs to keep the water moving and to delay freezing. As always, the container must be kept perfectly clean.
Black oil or striped sunflower seeds are rich in oil. Peanut hearts are great choices for smaller birds. Sunflower seeds, peanut butter, and thistle (Niger) are also popular.
Suet, especially with additional fruits and nuts, provides high quality animal fat plus protein. Mealworms are another source of protein.
Most importantly, plan your landscape so that it provides a natural source of food and shelter for wildlife. Go local. Remember that fruit and nut-bearing shrubs and trees are not only beautiful, they are the best source of food and shelter for wildlife all year round.
Additionally, they add color and structural interest to your garden in winter, even when other plants are dormant. Penn State provides examples of winter food sources: hawthorn, viburnum, winter berry, deer horn sumach, and crab apple. Don’t overlook evergreen plants like American holly, Austrian pine, Siberian and Oriental spruce and arborvitae for shelter. Our state tree, the eastern hemlock, is a great source of shelter and nesting, safe from the elements.
Woodpeckers, nuthatches, wrens and titmouse are hollow nests. They look for holes in trees or crevices in rocks, banks, etc. that are suitable for nesting. Woodpeckers can drill their own cavities. When nesting holes are scarce, smaller birds can use birdhouses and nesting boxes. It is a good idea to provide nesting material in the spring to encourage nesting activity in your yard.
While you may prefer to remove all traces of plants, leaves, and other debris from your garden in the fall, please remember how important these materials are to the birds, bees, and small mammals in your neighborhood in the winter.
Sam Walter Foss wrote: ‘.’ .. let me live in a house by the roadside. And be a friend of man. “I allow myself to add friends of nature as well.
For more information: https://extension.psu.edu/winter-bird-feeding-the-basics
Elizabeth Farrell is a volunteer master gardener for Berks County Penn State.