Tips for attracting birds to your back yard this winter

By Joan Casanova
Green Earth Media Group

You may think warm weather is prime time to enjoy the rewarding hobby of bird feeding and bird watching. Winter, however, is the time of year when birds need you most — and when you have the greatest chance of attracting them to your back yard. Natural food and water sources become scarce, competition for limited resources is fierce, and non-migratory birds are looking for a reliable, good-quality meal. It’s your moment!

The bird-feeding experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products offer the following tips for drawing wild birds to your back yard this winter:

• Feed without guilt! There is absolutely no research that shows wild birds will become lazy if you feed them. Nor will they forego migrating in favor of hanging around your back yard. Migratory birds will act on instinct and migrate when it’s time to do so, regardless of food sources. Hummingbirds, for example, will migrate, but it’s often a smart, sensible idea to leave a hummingbird feeder up for a few weeks after the majority are gone, just in case a straggler needs sustenance.

• No matter how urgent their need for food, birds won’t visit your feeder if you fill it with the avian equivalent of junk food. Birdfeed that contains cheap fillers won’t attract or satisfy birds, and they will either look elsewhere for food, or — if they’re really feeling winter’s pinch — eat at your feeder but leave a mess of filler uneaten on the ground. Look for birdfeed that contains quality ingredients and is free of chemicals and other toxins that could harm birds. Cole’s Wild Bird products are especially formulated to attract birds and are all-natural, top-of-the crop seeds free of fillers, preservatives, mineral oils or pesticides. Their top-quality feed is nitrogen-purge packaged, just like potato chips, to ensure freshness and insect-free feed. Visit www.coleswildbird.com to learn more.

• Seeds are a satisfying, top choice for winter dining among birds, but they also love suet, which gives them much-needed stores of fat. Seeds with a high fat or oil content are best for birds during winter, so look for options like black oil sunflower seed, niger seed, raw peanuts and suet cakes. Cole’s offers Nutberry Suet, an energy-packed powerhouse feed that mixes birds’ favorite seeds with suet, a variety of no-melt suet cakes, and some suet specialty products like Cole’s Suet Pearls and Cole’s Suet Nuts, which birds love. These products provide concentrated energy to help birds make it through freezing winter weather.

• While it’s always important to keep your birdfeeders clean, cleanliness is even more vital during winter when more birds are likely to visit your feeders. Cleaning minimizes mold, mildew and other unhealthy conditions that could make backyard birds sick. Consider an easy-to-clean, hassle-free feeder like Cole’s Terrific Tube Feeder, which has a quick-clean feature, making cleaning a snap. Remember to throw away any seed left over in the feeder when cleaning, and let the feeder dry thoroughly before refilling, so there’s less chance of seed becoming encased in ice.

• Finding fresh, unfrozen water can be more challenging for birds than finding food in the winter. Use fountains or spritzers in your birdbath to attract thirsty birds. You can also use a heated birdbath to ensure feathered visitors never have to contend with frozen water.

• Be sure to place birdfeeders with safety in mind. Keep feeders away from structures that could provide a haven for avian predators, like cats or hawks. Be mindful of proximity to your house and the risk that birds might fly into windows if feeders are too close to your home.

Winter is a great time to nurture your love of bird feeding and bird watching. As your back yard fills with wild birds, their plumage and songs can brighten dreary winter days. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping your feathered friends during the season when they need it most.

From the Jan. 7-13, 2015, issue

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