Suet is the other high-energy food for birds during the winter. You can put out raw beef suet in the cold weather, or serve more convenient, commercial suet cakes to attract woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, Carolina wrens and any wintering orioles or catbirds. A fun winter project with children is to melt down beef suet and add your own seeds, nuts, peanut butter or corn meal. You can let it cool and cut into blocks, or spread the softened mixture into pine cones to be hung for the birds.
Wintering robins, bluebirds, mockingbirds and catbirds usually eat fruit in the winter. You can offer them raisins or currants, that are first softened and plumped up in warm water, on a tray feeder. Sliced apple or oranges might also attract them and there are a variety of fruit feeders that will allow you to make your offering accessible for the birds. These, and many other birds, will also be ever grateful for a cup of mealworms, if you really want to please them.
Water that is not frozen is often as hard to find as food in the winter for the birds. Birds need water to drink, but also to keep their feathers warm and fluffed for insulation from the cold. A de-icer in any bird bath, or a bird bath with built in heater, is the easiest way to provide open water. A plastic dish that you place on the ground and can empty and refill each day will also serve the purpose. Offering birds food and water in the cold months ahead will help them survive until spring, and will give you warm feelings as you enjoy the company that they provide.
Steve Grinley is the owner of Bird Watcher’s Supply and Gift at the Route 1 traffic circle in Newburyport and the Nature Shop at Joppa Flats.