Don’t forget about our Feathered Friends!

Published by Bucks Country Gardens in Lawn & Garden

With winter approaching–and lets hope it’s not as bad as last year–many of us are doing some fall planting, cleaning up our garden beds and bringing plants and pots indoors. But before you start planning for next year‘s garden, don’t forget our feathered friends.

During the winter when the ground freezes, there is little vegetation available and most insects are dead or dormant. Birds become extremely vulnerable and can certainly use our help. If we help by providing some water, shelter and food their chances of surviving the colder months greatly increase.

Birds need water for drinking (seeds have very little moisture in them) and washing. In the warmer months, I have a concrete birdbath out in my garden, which the birds really seem to enjoy. On very warm days, I have seen several birds queuing up, waiting on the branches of my lilac or viburnum to make a splash. Although I have a variety of visiting birds, the Blue Jays rule my birdbath. They’ll even pose for pictures there. In the winter, I store the concrete birdbath in my shed and bring out a plastic one that sits on the ground. It’s located in a sunny spot, so even if the water freezes overnight it is thawed by early afternoon. If you feel more enterprising, you can purchase a birdbath with a deicer or add a deicer coil to your existing birdbath.

In the colder months, in addition to water, birds need a resting place out of the wind, rain and snow. Evergreen trees and shrubs as well as birdhouses and nesting boxes do nicely. If you have few or no evergreens but purchase a live tree at Christmas time, think of placing it outdoors after the holidays. By placing food and water near these respites the birds can travel shorter distances thereby spending less time battling the elements and using up their energy reserve.

Now that you have an area picked out with water and shelter you need to provide one more essential: food. My first two choices in the winter are suet and peanut butter. They provide much needed fat and are loved by many types of birds including woodpeckers. In fact, I find the nuttier the suet the quicker the woodpeckers devour it. The peanut butter can be attached to pine cones, logs, or hanging bowls. Sprinkle some seed over the peanut butter for an added treat. I also move my large bird feeder (Squirrel Buster, yes I have squirrel issues) from the back of my yard up closer to the house using a shepherd’s hook. I fill in around the bottom of the hook with a few large stones and evergreen branches, including the lower branches from the Christmas tree. This provides coverage for the ground eating birds. I find if the feeder is closer to the house I’m more apt to fill it on those cold frosty mornings. During the holidays, if you’re stringing popcorn, cranberries and raisins, put a string or two out for the birds. The holidays also bring a variety of seeded ornaments for the birds in shapes of bells, stars and wreaths, but I must warn you that the squirrels also love these ornaments. I’ve had quite a few disappear moments after being hung.

With our feather friends provided for, sit back and enjoy their company. For what is lovelier than a bright red cardinal perching on a snow covered mound or a tiny downy woodpecker with his red-topped head feeding on a peanut butter pinecone?

Marilyn Fanning | Greenhouse Sales & Design