Feeding Birds in Winter

A Tufted Titmouse nibbles a seed at bird feeder outside kitchen window. Photo (c) Hilda M. Morrill
A Tufted Titmouse nibbles a seed at bird feeder outside kitchen window. Photo (c) Hilda M. Morrill

We enjoy feeding our feathered friends throughout the winter season.

Although at one time we had six different feeders throughout our yard, we now have only one, which is located outside a low casement kitchen window that is hinged on one side and swings out.

Hubby set up a bird feeder pole with a hook that works much better than when we hung the feeder from a small adjacent tree, from which the squirrels could reach their unlimited buffet.

Not only is it easy and convenient to fill the feeder from inside the house, but it’s fun to watch our visitors while seated at our kitchen table.

This weekend the Massachusetts Audubon Society is conducting its annual survey asking interested birders to keep a list of all the different species seen at their bird feeders and yards as well as the greatest number of each species seen at one time.

As they note on their website, “Observations from the bird watching public contribute to a growing body of information that can help provide early warning signs of changes in the abundance of bird species that visit feeders.

“For example, feeder watching in Massachusetts since the 1960s has helped document the northward expansion of the tufted titmouse, Carolina wren and Northern cardinal at least partly in response to increasingly warmer winters.”

Incidentally, the society will hold its “21st Annual Mass Audubon Birders Meeting” on Saturday, March 16, 2013
at Bentley University in Waltham. For information,
call 781-259-9500.

According to birding expert Elaine Cole, of Cole’s Wild Bird Food, feeding birds is by far the simplest way to attract them. Adding the best winter bird food choices to feeders when the temperatures drop will give birds the extra energy they need to survive even the worst weather. Foods high in oil and fat are the most popular winter picks.

Black oil sunflower seeds have slightly thinner shells and a higher oil content than other types of sunflower seeds, making them a more efficient and nutritious food. Offer them in platform, tube or hopper feeders to attract a wide range of hungry birds.

For maximum calories, suet is an optimum winter food choice.

Thistle seed is a favorite food for winter finches such as pine siskins, redpolls, and goldfinches. Another oily seed that offers lots of calories, it helps birds store fat they need to keep warm.

For convenient and economical winter feeding, nothing beats a good-quality birdseed mix according to Ms. Cole. While birds can probably tell a good mix just by looking at it, humans cannot. Choose a mix that features large proportions of sunflower seeds and millet, but avoid mixes with large proportions of fillers such as wheat, milo and corn.

Happy birding!