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Supporting Birds during Winter

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

As urban density increases, birds struggle to find suitable habitat. This is most noticeable in the decrease of birds that prefer greater forestation, so often you are left with just the birds especially well adapted to urban habitats, like robins, finches, sparrows, crows and juncos. Hawks need open fields, woodpeckers need snags, etc.

Hairy Woodpecker eating suet from a hanging feeder log.

Access to water and food can become especially hard for birds in the winter. As temperatures drop, and especially with some snowfall, you may have noticed birds will flock to suet feeders to devour the high-energy fats they need to stay warm. Placing a suet feeder in a spot free from predators (cats especially) can provide food to help birds continue to overwinter despite ever increasing urban sprawl.

Cooper's hawk bathing in a shallow river.

Often overlooked is the need for water. As ponds freeze, there can be few sources of water, especially for birds that need shallow sources for drinking. Keeping a small fountain or water feature running through the winter can provide this essential resource for all kinds of birds.

Our landscaping practices also contribute to either the problem or solution. For example, letting the fall leaves compost into the ground provides birds with a place to forage for insects. Native plants integrated throughout your yard can provide year-round food, from berries and native insects. And of course not using pesticides ensures that there will be insects when the birds come looking for them.

With a little creativity, you'll find that the habitat you can create around your home can provide all the essentials needed to help so many birds continue to call this area home in the winter.

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