Food and Shelter for Birds

Food and Shelter for Birds

Supporting Birds In The Winter

One of the pleasures of living on Cape Cod is watching the birds. We are blessed to have a wide assortment of birds that live here year round, seasonally, or pass through. But since much of the Cape has been developed with landscapes that aren’t very bird-friendly, it’s important to support these feathered creatures in as many ways as we can. This is especially important as we go into the winter when food, water and shelter can be scarce. This week and next week we’ll talk about ways we can not only help the birds, but enjoy their kaleidoscope of color and movement that brings us so much joy.

Feeding Birds

Many birds appreciate shelled sunflower seed. Country Garden carries a mix of mostly shelled with some in-shell black oil seed.  This type of sunflower is a good source of nutritious, high-quality protein. These seeds are high in fatty oil, which is important to birds in the winter in that they use their glands to to spread oil over their feathers to keep them warm and dry. Shelled seed attracts many types of birds, and as an added bonus you have less seed-litter under feeders.
Although some birds will discover how to eat seeds from just about any feeder, many are primarily ground feeders and appreciate seed that’s scattered over larger, flat spaces. During the summer time this garden bench holds succulents on display, but in the winter it becomes a feeder where sunflower seed is spread at least twice a day. As you can see, this photo was taken when a it was clearly the Blue Jay and Cardinal hour, although the a woodpecker has temporarily claimed the dish feeder for himself.
Suet is another good source of energy for bids in the winter time. This is a block of the High Energy Suet that Country Garden sells. It is pure suet, without any seeds being mixed in. Woodpeckers visit this block daily, but others such as bluebirds, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice also feed here.
Suet holders can become part of your holiday decorations! Attach them to a wreath or swag, and hang securely where the birds have easy access to the suet.
This is a finch feeder, but the bird is a flicker, not a finch! We fill our niger seed feeder (sometimes called a thistle feeder) with the fine sunflower chips from Wild Delight. Not only do the finches love the seed, but all of the woodpeckers do as well.
Your choice of plants in your landscape can also play a huge role in feeding birds. American holly berries are eaten by robins, cedar waxwings, eastern bluebirds, catbirds and others.
Don’t forget that many perennial plants also provide food for birds. Aster seeds, seen here, support birds in the fall and winter. Other perennials such as Coreopsis, Echinacea and goldenrod are also important. To be sure your garden is providing bird seed and beauty, don’t cut these plants down in the fall. Wait to remove the old stalks until spring.

Shelter For Birds

One of the best ways to provide shelter for birds is by planting a diverse selection of plants in your yard that are allowed to grow to a variety of heights. Allow some landscaping to grow in thickly, with plants touching as they do in wild areas. Birds take shelter in micro-climates that are protected because of thick growth. If you have space in your yard for a brush pile, it will not only be a place for you to stack downed branches or your old Christmas tree, but it can provide good shelter for birds as well.

Be sure your bird houses are cleaned at this time of year, since mice frequently move into these shelters in the fall. Evicting the mice will allow birds to occasionally take cover in nesting boxes during a storm.

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