Feeding Our Feathered Friends

From Prairie Star blogger Kimberly B.

When winter lays a cold, soft blanket over the prairie, it's time to take care of our resident, feathered ones that converge upon the dried flower and grass stalks to look for seeds. My wintering garden provides the Chickadees, Cardinals, Juncos, Finches, and so many other wild birds with a variety of options...such as dead coneflowers, spent sunflowers, and frozen zinnias. This is one good reason to leave your garden "messy" in the fall instead of pulling everything out to dispose of. But since these seeds quickly run out, it's important to supplement their needs through the season with store-bought alternatives.

Mixing a blend of wild bird food is something I enjoy all year...lots of love and intention goes into each batch. And depending on the season, different ingredients too. During winter, it's important to provide extra protein (meal worms) and fat (suet or nut butters) along with quality seed and dried berries. My go-to winter batch is a blend of black oil sunflower, safflower, nyjer thistle, cracked corn, and dried meal worms. And this year I've added a bowl of un-shelled peanuts...they've drawn the larger birds such as Blue Jays, various Woodpeckers, plus a few fat squirrels. I keep the peanut bowl on the ground and away from the feeders to encourage the greedy squirrels to stay away from the bird's food. It usually works! Sliced apples added in also helps to distract them.

Birds also require fresh water all winter. Don't assume that they eat snow for hydration. They benefit from a reliable water source. So I've upcycled an electric, heated dog bowl...it's sitting in the backyard on a stool with a small rock in the center for perching birds, and I keep the water level even with the top of the rock so the water stays shallow enough for them to use. It's not a pretty birdbath, my husband often laughs at it, but the birds don't seem to mind and are grateful for it because they regularly come in for a drink!


When you feed your local birds, they will reward you with their cheerful sounds and skittish sights. And they invite yet more birds to the frenzy so that soon you'll see even more varieties joining the seed party outside your window! By observing them, you'll also learn fun things about their habits and personalities. For example, I once observed a Blue Jay layering dried leaves from the ground over a few peanuts he had deposited against a tree trunk. He was evidently hiding them for later...how smart is that?! I've also discerned that some types of birds prefer to eat seeds from off the ground, while others only perch to eat from the feeders. There are so many fun little tidbits I've learned about them just through observation, but none of this could be enjoyed if I didn't first provide the food to draw them in!

Perhaps you, too, would enjoy sharing in this important provision and winter activity? As with our pollinators in the warmer months, you'll soon discover about our wintering birds that if you feed (and water) them, they will come!

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