Heavy snow and freezing winds are no strangers in the winter months. When you’re having a lovely Christmas dinner inside your house, many non-migratory birds in the wild are spending a tough time trying to figure out how to stay warm on the coldest winter night.
So, how to help birds in winter? Since winter is the season of food scarcity, you can offer birds high-energy foods, such as seeds, nuts, and suet in a protected feeder. To roost in winter nights, you can help birds, providing well-sealed birdhouses in your backyard.
Besides that, you can help birds in many ways, giving them a heated birdbath and planting dense trees and shrubs. In this article, we’re now going to talk about all of these, along with why birds need help in winter and how you can help them.
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Why Do Birds Need Help in Winter?
Birds’ life is more dangerous than that of human beings, especially in winter. Although many birds migrate to safe areas, thousands of non-migratory birds have to face many serious hassles, including the attack of owls and hawks, four-legged predators, habitat loss, devastating place, and severe winter weather. That’s why they need help from us in winter.
How to Help Wild/Backyard Birds in Winter
Most winter birds need food, shelter, fresh water, etc. They’re basically seed-eaters and want to stay in birdhouses to roost in the coldest winter nights. If you provide these kinds of stuff to the flying creatures, this will be a great help to them.
For those who are living in an area where winter hits below zero and snow covers the ground for a long time, our following tips will help you a lot to help birds go through the harsh winter weather. So, let’s get started!
- Stock up Nutritious Bird Food: Winter is a challenging time for birds to get enough food sources. If you want to help them, you can stock up winter bird foods, such as seeds, nuts, fruits, in the fall when stores are just getting ready to sell winter products.
- Provide Dry Seeds to the Birds: When winter comes, overwintering birds, such as sparrows, juncos, towhees, doves, and bluestems, cannot find dry seeds to eat. You can help them, providing dry seeds in tube or hopper feeders.
- Scatter Seeds in Secured Places: Some bird species, including eastern towhees, dark-eyed juncos, and tree sparrows, are willing to consume seeds in other secured places, like under your deck, hedges, and bushes. So, scatter seeds for them in these places.
- Offer Other High-Energy Foods: Regardless of seeds, you can offer birds other high-energy foods, like peanut butter, suet, and meat scraps. These foods have fat that gives the birds a lot of energy to cope with harsh winter weather.
- Serve Mealworms in a Heavy Dish: If you want to help overwintering birds, you can serve mealworms to them in a heavy dish outside of your house. Using a heavy dish is so important. Otherwise, a strong wind blows the mealworms and dish away.
- Don’t Forget to Give the Birds Water: When groundwater gets frozen, birds cannot find fresh water to drink. To help them in harsh winter weather, you shouldn’t forget to give them clean water to drink and therefore become hydrated.
- Plant Trees That Can Supply Food Sources: If you want to help overwintering birds, you can plant trees that can supply several food sources, including apples, pears, mulberries, and multiple nuts. You can also plant cotoneaster, pyracantha, and malus for them.
- Give the Birds Homemade Treats: To help birds in winter, you can offer them some homemade treats, such as bread, cereals, cooked pasta, rice, eggs, eggshells, cheese, meat, and pet food.
- Wash and Fix Your Current Feeders: Before the air temperature is getting less than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you should thoroughly wash your current bird feeders. You should also fix the feeders if you notice any issues with them.
- Fill Your Feeders with Foods: Once you’ve washed and fixed your feeders, you should fill them with foods like seeds, nuts, and suet, to give your feathered friends during winter. Ensure that you’re placing the feeders in suitable places.
- Keep Extra Feeders for Harsh Winter Weather: When winter weather becomes too harsh for birds, they might be seeking more help from you. To help them in their challenging situations, you should keep some extra feeders full of enough food.
- Make a Windbreak: Sometimes, bird feeders get buried in heavy snow, especially in the coldest cities in the USA and Canada. If you want to keep your feeders away from snow, you need to make a windbreak with a Christmas tree, plywood, and brush pile.
- Hang the Feeders Near a Wall or Building: If winds tend to blow your feeders away, you should hang them near a wall or building to shield them. However, make sure that the predators cannot reach the feeders.
- Keep Feeders 4 to 5 Feet from the Ground: To keep your feeders away from predators, you should hang your feeders at least 4 to 5 feet above the ground vertically and 8 to 10 feet horizontally. Many predators will try to reach the feeders to eat bird foods.
- Purchase New Bird Feeders: If you use your current feeders for several years, investing in new feeders is a good idea. Birds that come to eat foods from your feeders may get hurt because of damaged, broken, or cracked parts of your feeders.
- Buy Feeders According to the Bird Species in Your Area: There are several types of bird feeders out there in the market. When you’re going to purchase feeders, you should identify which bird species are mostly seen in your area.
- Allow Birds to Preserve Habitats: If possible, you should allow birds to preserve habitats so that they can roost in the coldest weather. You can arrange one in your backyard, but we recommend you help them make larger habitat restoration.
- Offer Well-Sealed Shelters to Birds: In winter, birds find a suitable shelter in the areas where harsh cold and winds cannot reach them. If you’re willing to help these little creatures, you can offer them well-sealed shelters, like birdhouses, to cuddle together.
- Furnish Your Bird Houses: You may have birdhouses in your backyard to help birds overwinter. Is it okay if your birdhouses have dry wood shavings or some dried grass in the bottom of them? Absolutely not. So, furnish your birdhouses as soon as possible.
- Don’t Use Sawdust in Bird Houses: When you’re furnishing your birdhouses, avoid using sawdust inside the houses. If you use sawdust, and it once gets wet, it can retain moisture, which won’t be good for overwintering birds.
- Plant Evergreen Shrubs and Trees: If you cannot make birdhouses, you can plant highly-dense trees and shrubs so that winter birds can cover themselves in the coldest nights. Trees and shrubs in groups also provide them extra protection from predators.
- Build a Brush Pile: To protect overwintering birds from lousy weather and predators, you can build a brush pile using fallen branches. Many winter birds, such as black-capped chickadees and American tree sparrows, will appreciate your efforts.
- Arrange A Birdbath In Your Backyard: If you want to help overwintering birds, you can set a birdbath for them, filling it with fresh water. Make sure that the water in the birdbath doesn’t get frozen. For that, change the water before getting frozen.
- Clean Your Current Birdbath: If you already have a birdbath in your backyard, you should clean it before winter. When you’re cleaning it, you should never add any deadly substances, like oil or glycerin. These substances may lead backyard birds to death.
- Use a Birdbath Heater Wisely: A birdbath heater helps birds drink and bathe during harsh winter. However, if there is no snow, the heater cannot help birds get access to water. So, you should place several large rocks in the bath. When birds come to bathe, remove the rocks from the bath.
- Provide Extra Attention to Electric, Heated Birdbaths: If you’re using an electric birdbath, check the connection if it has any problem. If you suspect any damage, you should unplug the product and discard the birdbath. Otherwise, it may give you a shock or kill an overwintering bird.
5. Additional Assistance
- Be Ready for Big Changes in Weather: If you’re always conscious about the weather update, you’ll definitely know when harsh winter weather is coming. Consequently, you can stock up foods, make shelters for birds, and arrange a heated birdbath for them. Whatever you do, you shouldn’t be unprepared when winter badly hits birds.
- Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard: When it comes to creating a bird-friendly backyard, you should work hard to plant trees and shrubs, such as hawthorns and dogwoods, before winter comes. Not only do these trees produce small fruits to feed overwintering birds, but these also provide the birds excellent shelters in winter.
- Skip the Chemicals: When you’re planting trees in your backyard, you shouldn’t use chemicals. Without putting chemicals in your backyard, you can save a few bucks and make your backyard healthy for birds.
- Keep Predators Away: During winter, every animal remains hungry. If you put out food for birds, some predators may try to reach the feeders. That’s why you need to keep bird feeders in a place where predators cannot reach them.
How to Help Pet Birds in Winter
Most pet bird species belong to warm, tropical geographic areas. When temperatures drop on a winter night, even if they’re inside their cage, it can be devastating not only for their health but for comfort. Learn how to care for your feathered friends in cold weather below.
Keep Your Birds Indoors
To keep your pet birds healthy and happy in winter, you have to keep them indoors, ensuring their safety and comfort. However, ensure that you don’t place them near fireplaces or heaters because they’re prone to sensitive respiratory problems, which may lead them to death.
Imitate the Native Environment of Your Pet Birds
Despite being born in a cage, your pet bird might belong to an all-year-round warm region. For example, African grey parrots come from the warmest regions of Africa, whereas macaws are originated from the rainforests of South America. These birds may not survive the harsh winter.
Therefore, imitating your pet’s natural habitat in your house is extremely important. Exposing your pet bird to less than 65°F can be dangerous. If you do that, a quick burst of cold air will put pressure on its immune system and then lead it to illness.
Keep Your Pet Birds Warm Safely
When it comes to keeping your pet bird warm on cold winter nights, making a fire in a fireplace is not a good solution. There is a burn risk for the bird and a health hazard from the smoke of burning wood. These can lead the bird to serious health issues, including sudden death.
Due to the same reason, using space heaters is also not a good solution. These devices give off toxic fumes that are harmful to the pet bird’s health. Besides, some of them run on kerosene or gas that can produce toxic fumes, which is also lethal to your pet bird.
When the temperature drops at night, cover your pet bird’s cage with a cloth to maintain a comfortable temperature. Keep the bird’s cage away from windows and doors. If you find any air leaks in them, seal them with a shrink-wrap insulation kit to make them weather-proof.
Expose Your Pet Birds to Humidity
As important as keeping your pet birds warm, it is even more important to ensure the necessary humidity for them. Many birders make their house fairly dry, reducing much-needed humidity for the birds. Low humidity can lead your pet birds to many respiratory problems.
Luckily, you can solve the humidity problem. One option is to buy an electric humidifier and place it in the room where your pet birds stay. Besides, you can gently spray your pet birds with water regularly so that they can get enough humidity in the air.
However, you have to ensure that the bird cage’s environment is warm enough before spraying water on them. Or, they can be quite chilled, which may lead them to illness. Consult your veterinarian if they become ill.
Change Their Diet If Necessary
During the winter, water gets much cooler than before. Some pet birds cannot drink chilled water. So, if possible, you should provide them mild-warm water so that they can stay hydrated. Besides, the birds need more calorie-rich foods to cope with harsh winter weather.
Meet Your Avian Veterinarian Regularly
Pet birds, like human beings, are more prone to contracting diseases in winter. The symptom that you may consider as a minor issue for your birds can be quite serious in the coldest winter. So, you should regularly meet your avian veterinarian to check their health.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How cold is too cold for birds?
Ans: Birds, in general, can tolerate temperatures between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if the temperature drops below 50, they may start fluffing their feathers to produce enough warmth inside their bodies.
2. How can you tell if a bird is cold?
Ans: If a bird is fluffing its feathers up and tucking its bill into its body, you can tell that the bird is feeling cold enough. There are also several symptoms, such as shivering, roosting, and sunning. When the bird shows these symptoms, it loses its appetite.
3. Can birds die from cold?
Ans: Birds can tolerate the coldest winter temperatures, storing extra fat in their bodies. They also fluff their feathers to trap heat so that they can resist the harsh winter weather. Besides, they reduce eating foods to conserve energy and search for the best places to cuddle.
Now that you know how to help birds in winter, you can absolutely help them when harsh winter weather hits the scene. But not all birds need the same type of food, feeders, and shelters. That’s why you should learn about the overwintering birds in your area before winter.
However, we hope you’ve learned a lot about helping backyard and pet birds in this article. If you’re feeling any issue regarding the post, feel free to ask us below in the comment section. We’ll be pleased to resolve your confusion.
Have a nice winter with birds!