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Winter Protection for Birds in the Garden

Written by Ann Meisoll

Winter is coming. So here are some ecological bird-friendly ways to promote a healthy safe habitat for birds come the colder months. Helping them out can also be beneficial to your garden. Most every gardener has birds through the growing season. So how can you help them survive?

  • Birds love seeds and berries and need them in their diets, so wait until mid-to-late winter to prune perennials and shrubs. Let plants stand until they have been completely used. Plants such as asters, elderberry, cotoneaster, echinacea, beautyberry, fennel provide a wealth of food.
  • Planting native shrubs and trees help birds stay around because they’re looking for familiar plants. If you don’t have them, they will go find them elsewhere. Dogwoods, conifers, hollies or anything that produces late-season fruits or seeds will attract them to your winter paradise.
  • If there are old, dying trees that can be safely left alone, wait until spring to remove them. If you must cut them down, leave a few pieces lying around to attract insects so the birds can dine on the eggs and larvae. Some birds and owls also prefer to make homes in dead trees.

  • Change over to feeding suet now. Birds need the added fat and proteins of suet blocks to get through the winter. Fruits, nuts and black oil sunflower seeds are also beneficial to them. Is there a snowstorm in the forecast? Make sure to have some extra seed and suet on hand. Birds seem to flock to feeders whenever it snows.

  • If possible, don’t forget the water. If you use a birdbath, be sure you have a heat source in it to keep the water unfrozen. If you choose to not use your birdbath for the winter, empty and store the bowl if at all possible. They tend to crack during repeated freezing and thawing.
  • Keep a seasonal journal and don’t forget to include tracking the birds. Make a list of what kind come to your feeders and what their favorite foods are. If you see a bird you’ve never seen before, make a note and take pictures if possible. There’s plenty of birding sights online through Instagram and Facebook where you can post and find out what kind they are. You might even spot one that rarely makes its way through Virginia.

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