January 2, 2010

Caring for the Wild Birds in Winter

This is what I woke up to this morning. It was 15 degrees and snow in my Middle Tennessee yard. The birds were every where and hungry! I have multiple bird feeders and a small pond as well as bird baths. I don't keep the bird baths full in winter because the birds can drink from my pond. The pond was frozen this morning - not good. I had not expected it to freeze because of the waterfall I had installed this summer. I also didn't expect 15 degrees either. I thawed a small portion of my little puddle with warm water and put in the bird bath heater that I should have done already. Fish and birds are happy now.
I doubled up on the meal worms and will probably put worms out twice a day as long as the weather remains this cold. I started feeding the meal worms for my blue birds but, although I see blue birds in the yard in winter, they don't come to the worm feeders except in summer. I don't know why unless they are feeding somewhere else. I've always had them at my worm feeders in other houses.

Another thing I am going to do this weekend is drag the old artificial tree (bought a new one this year) out to the back fence and leave it for extra night shelter for my feathery friends. If you haven't already disposed of your live Christmas tree, they make a nice shelter for the birds and the needles are good for the garden too. I used to leave mine in the back of the garden until spring before disposing of the dead branches.

Suet is a good energy source for birds when insects are scarce. You can make your own or purchase it ready made. TSC stores are my favorite place to purchase suet - the ones around here usually have it for less than a dollar a cake and carry several types. I feed suet all year round and we especially love watching the woodpeckers feeding their juveniles in the spring at our suet feeders.

Here is a recipe if you want to try your hand at making your own. Don't worry about the lard, harding of the arteries is a human problem - not birds' problem. I always add sunflowers to homemade suet because it seems to attract the birds more quickly. If you have a source of beef suet you can melt it instead of the lard.

2 cups lard
2 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 cup (yellow) cornmeal
2 cups whole oats (not quick or instant oats)
1 cup wheat bran

Melt lard and peanut butter together (microwave works fine - keep an eye on things). Stir until blended. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients, except for the oatmeal. Then, pour-in the melted lard and peanut butter. Next, start adding the oatmeal 3 or so cups at a time. The mixture should be thick. Add extra oats if it is not thick enough, until it is too stiff to stir.

Pour the mixture into a greased pan (or glass pans - no extra greasing needed), cool in refrigerator and cut or spoon into the proper shape for your feeder. If you don't use it up quickly it can be frozen until needed. You can add extra chopped peanuts, black oil sunflower seeds, chopped raisins, chopped sunflower hearts, and powdered sterilized eggshells.
For more suggestions on making your yard wildlife friendly check out the National Wildlife Federation.


  1. Very helpful post, thanks! I was astounded at the number of birds that were out when we had a snow recently.

    We've been debating whether to recycle our real tree through the city or just put it in the backyard.

  2. Thanks for visiting my blog! My camera is a Nikon D50.

    I'm going to try your recipe.