Prepping for Feathered Friends

As winter looms in the background, many of us gardeners who have cleaned our landscapes of wilted hostas, frozen daylilies, and dead annuals look forward to the influx of feathered friends that come to our landscapes in winter in search of food, water, and a safe place to spend the cold months. If you live near a water source such as a pond, river, or stream, there is little to do in that way. However, for those who do not, adding some water source to your winter landscape is a must for birds.

Water sources such as a gently flowing stream are needed by birds in the wintertime

Birds and other critters need water through the winter time, just like we do. If you do not already have a natural water source or a small pond or fountain in your landscape, you may need to add a heated birdbath or waterer. A heated dog bowl can serve the place of a birdbath if you do not want to take the time or spend the money for the large stands. 

Hawthorn berries are eaten in winter by an array of birds including waxwings, woodpeckers, and blue jays

Prepping your garden for birds means leaving plants that many birds will feed on such as rudbeckia, echinacea, perennial sunflowers, asters, daisies, and bittersweet. If you have designed your garden for wildlife you should already have many of the shrubs a trees that provide winter fruit as well as summer fodder. Viburnums, holly, barberry, beautyberry, chokeberry, coralberry, sumac, and other shrubs often hold their fruit into the winter for birds to utilize.

Woodpeckers love suet of all kinds

Trees that provide fruit in the winter months include crabapple, magnolia, hackberry, juniper, and hawthorn. These trees and others are also sheltering sites for birds as they weather the storms of the cold. 

A rose-breasted nuthatch munches on sunflower seeds from a feeder

Another task for gardeners now is to position and set up birdfeeders if you have not already done so. If you can, you should use a variety of birdfeeders with different kinds of seed and food, to attract and feed many different kinds of birds. Suet feeders attract many species of birds including large and small woodpeckers, tufted titmice, wrens, nuthatches, and flickers. Large seeds such as sunflower and cracked corn attracts chickadees, woodpeckers, finches, wrens, nuthatches, and more. Small seeds such as thistle, millet, milo, and safflower attract a great arrangement of birds including finches, wrens, sparrows, nuthatches, chickadees, and others. Many larger birds are also attracted to raisins, fruit, and unshelled peanuts.

This nuthatch was stunned after hitting the author’s large picture window. He revived after a few minutes and survived

Try to place feeders in open areas where predators such as cats cannot lay in wait to ambush them. Also, although it is nice to have feeders near windows where you can see them, be aware that you may have a few birds hitting your large windows every day. Many times the birds are just stunned and will revive in a few minutes, but some birds will die from crashing into windows.


Be sure to have squirrel guards on you feeders to prevent squirrels from taking over the feeder. These can be bought or homemade guards. If you have a large population of owls or hawks nearby, that may be enough deterrent for many squirrels. You can also give the squirrels their own feeder stations far away from the bird feeders to entice them away. 

A tufted titmouse eats sunflower and safflower seeds

Be sure to keep you seed and suet in a cool dry place to prevent mold. A metal trashcan with a lid placed in a cool garage or on the porch near the feeders is a great place to keep seed. 

Blue jays love peanuts, both shelled and unshelled

Now you can sit back and enjoy the feathered frenzy that arrives!


Happy planting!

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