The days are becoming windy and cold, and the nights are getting longer and even colder. There is a feel of winter in the air. In New England, winter can be a difficult time for birds. Most insects — the typical summer diet for songbirds — are dead or are becoming dormant. Most songbirds that stay the winter will shift their diets to fruits and seed, but the fruits of summer and the fall seed crop is being consumed, and will eventually become more scarce.
If you haven’t fed the birds through the summer and fall, this is the time of year to put up those feeders and welcome the birds to your “table” for food. If you have been feeding birds right through the summer and fall, you may have noticed a drop-off of activity at your feeders for the past couple of months. This is natural, as the birds are very opportunist. They take advantage of the abundant supply of natural seed from trees, flowers and weeds while it is available.
As that gets consumed and the natural supply decreases, the birds will remember where your feeders are. With the colder weather, the birds are really fueling up and returning to feeders where they are available. Setting up a bird feeder in the back yard will make their lives easier, and yours more enjoyable. To observe the many birds that spend the winter here, you don’t have to go out into the elements (unless you want to.) You can simply watch them from the warmth and comfort of your home. Studies have shown that feeding birds can have some therapeutic effect for adults and, thus, it can be beneficial to both humans and birds.
Having a backyard feeder will make children more aware of birds and nature which, hopefully, will instill in them the need to conserve resources and protect habitats. If you are feeding the birds for the first time, you may wonder what to serve. Different birds enjoy different types of seed, but black-oil sunflower seems to be the favorite of most feeder birds.