Winter in the prairies is cold and can be an unpredictable place during the winter months. Many of the birds in and around the city can use a little help with their winter survival. This includes providing food, water sources, and shelter. I am no expert by far, but here are some tips I have gathered on how to help our feathered friends.
Surviving the colder months is all about energy intake and conserving output. Providing a higher fat or higher protein food source at your feeder is key. Black-oil sunflower seeds are a great option for a range of birds, and shelled sunflower seeds save a bit of energy output too. Another good energy source is shelled peanuts, which are popular among woodpeckers and nuthatches. I’ve also heard Nyger seed is great for finches; however I have yet to see any at my feeder. When I posed my predicament on the Sask Birders Facebook page, crushed sunflower seed was recommended for our finches in the winter. A mix that includes all or most of these is a good choice for the winter.
In addition to your seed mix, suet is great for winter as it is literally fat. Suet blocks and hanging feeders can be found at many retail stores, or you can make your own with rendered fat. I have discovered that several of our members actually have access to rendered fat, so if you are interested in making your own suet, you only need to strike up a conversation at the next general meeting or field trip. Other ingredients to look for or add to your suet are mealworms, peanuts or peanut butter, and dried fruit.
Birds also need access to an open water source in the winter. They can eat snow for water intake; however, energy is required to bring it up to their body temperature. To help with this some feeding stations include a heated water dish for the birds to drink from. Providing a water source that does not freeze is wonderful, but keep in mind that it is extremely important to keep this water clean, to ensure it is not aiding in the spread of disease. On that same note, damp seed should be removed promptly from an open feeder. It is good to check on your feeders when there is a change in weather to ensure you are providing a healthy source of food and water. Removal of snow cover is important as well, to allow access to the food and to prevent the seed from becoming damp.
The last element to incorporate in your bird feeding station is shelter. Birds need shelter from the wind and predators while they eat. An easy way to achieve this is to place your feeder(s) near or in a tree or shrubs. They also benefit from an easy get away, so hanging feeders on poles and bird baths on pedestals that cats cannot climb or gain access to are best. Birds need a clear path from the feeder to shelter.
I hope these tips are helpful to some of our members. I have gathered most of this information from other members, who are always willing to provide insight. For additional or more advanced tips, join us at our general meetings and field trips!
Please note that we also have Gardenscape coming up where we need our knowledgeable and new members to volunteer and provide information on the nature available to us in Saskatoon and promote our wonderful society.
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 27013 Grosvenor Park
Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9