Winter can be a challenging season for our birds! Days are shorter, so there is less daylight for foraging. Insects die or hibernate, and the growing season ends. There's simply less food for birds and other wildlife in the winter. That's why well-stocked bird feeders are so popular in cold months: theyp provide the nutrition and energy that birds need to survive a northwest winter.
by Molly Evans
Late autumn is a great time to gear up for birdfeeding in a big way! Our year ‘round resident birds, plus returning migrants like White-crowned Sparrows, Golden-crowned Sparrows, Spotted Towhees, Varied Thrush, and Dark-eyed Juncos, will all be tempted to make your backyard a regular stop on their daily foraging rounds.
• Fresh Seed - offer plenty of the favorite, black oil sunflower seed; add white millet for the migratory sparrows who have recently arrived, nyjer for goldfinches, and mixed nuts.
• Suet - insect eaters love suet all year, and almost all birds visit suet feeders during our cold months when insects are scarce
• Hummingbird nectar - in cold months, year ‘round resident Anna’s Hummingbirds become very loyal to never-empty never-frozen hummingbird feeders
• Water - some people don’t realize that a source of water is attractive even in our rainier months!
Less Gardening = More Habitat
Many of us once spent hours in our yards on a large “fall cleanup” effort, removing annual flowers and cleaning up perennial beds, plus ridding the yard of dead leaves and other vegetation, and sticks. The good news is that if we do less cleaning, we leave more natural food and cold-weather shelter for wildlife. Let autumn leaves remain in places that won’t kill your grass, and they’ll insulate those areas. Leaf-covered soil is a better home to insects and beneficial microorganisms, and helps to prevent soil erosion in our rainy season. Collect the leaves you must rake into a few piles that could be used by hibernating backyard creatures like lizards and frogs.
Even your firewood pile can provide shelter for backyard wildlife. I regularly see birds hanging out around our woodpile in the winter, utilizing it both for shelter and for insect-hunting. Dead tree limbs and even whole trees can be very helpful to backyard wildlife, so if you can leave them without threat of danger, consider doing so! Woodpeckers hollow out snags to use for nest sites, and those woodpecker holes are re-used in cold weather as roosting sites by other birds.
Now is the perfect time to organize your backyard bird feeders (but maybe not as much organizing and cleaning of your backyard) to host wildlife through autumn and winter! It’s a wonderful season to enhance the beauty of your yard by hosting the birds and other wildlife that can benefit so greatly from your feeders and habitat creation!