Welcome our feathered friends

November 17, 2021

By Majo Bates, Master Gardener—

As winter is approaching, I am reminded that our feathered friends need our help. I am thankful for the beauty they bring us in the winter; especially the bright red Cardinals. Our birds that winter over need a lot of assistance to get through the cold, ice and snow. Natural resources become limited which makes access to berries, seeds and water a lot more challenging. Attract and welcome these feathered friends to your back yard with a bird friendly habitat.

Creating a habitat is simple and can be done without re-landscaping, nor do you need a 20-acre area or timber. All you need to supply is shelter, water and food. I used to deadhead all of my flowers, cutting off the large seed heads every fall. I do not do that anymore. I love to watch the birds enjoy eating them and picking them off. Birds usually are constantly eating all winter. It helps them retain their body heat and energy. Many birds may come to rely on feeders, especially in severe weather. Bird feeders offer an easy access meal close to their home. Remember to continually refill feeders to encourage return visitors and always keep bird feeders clean to prevent diseases.

Cut oranges or grapefruit in half, scoop out the middle and fill with bird food for little feeding stations that will last all winter. Don’t forget that birds can also get food, as well as shelter, all year round when native shrubs and plants are used in the landscape.

Whether in a pot on the deck or spread out around the yard, native shrubs like sumac, holly, saltbush, hackberry or hawthorn can provide berries and seeds birds love to eat.

A welcoming habitat for birds needs to offer protection from the harsh weather or from predators. Shrubs and evergreen trees are ideal, but there are other ways to provide for them. A simple bird house or nesting box can be hung from a porch, deck, fence or tree. Leaves and sticks can be piled up in a remote corner of the yard or next to a shed to be used as shelter, or they might use it as nesting material.

Winters are long and cold but providing a little comfort for the birds may just warm you up. We’ve had just a long pandemic, and with winter coming this can help us as well as the birds by giving us something to do. Watching the different kinds of birds visiting your feeders can keep you entertained for hours, and you will feel extra good when you realize that you’ve helped these feathered friends get through the winter.

Last and not least, water is the single most important asset for visiting birds in your back yard. In the winter, believe it or not, birds can become dehydrated even when surrounded by snow and ice. That’s why providing a water source is even more important in the winter. It is hard on us to keep this going, especially as we age and have aches and pains. An easy solution is to place a shallow container or warm water in a sunny spot and refill it often. A porch, patio, or deck can be a great spot. The water should be clean, fresh water. Just be very careful and do not get in a hurry. You do not want to fall.

Enjoy your garden and make it winter friendly to our feathered friends.

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