Fall will soon be here, and wild birds’ internal clocks are signaling them to begin their preparation for the harsh winter ahead. We have gathered some expert suggestions for inviting and keeping winter birds in and about your yard during the upcoming long, cold winter.
By mid to late September, you should take down all of your bird feeders and give them a good, thorough cleaning. Scrub all plastic tube and bowl feeders with soap and hot water, rinse thoroughly and let them dry. Wooden platform feeders should be scraped to remove all debris and then scrubbed thoroughly. A 10:1 water to bleach (or vinegar for plastic) will help to disinfect the bird feeders. A long handled stiff brush will make cleaning easier.
It is also very important to clean the birdhouse nest boxes thoroughly. By now, wild birds that nest in houses have completed their breeding season, and it’s a good time to remove the old nesting material. Be careful not to breathe the dust from the nest and handle any remaining nesting material with gloves. Use an old spatula to remove the nesting materials and scrape out the inside of the box with a wire brush. A shop vac with a vacuum bag can quickly suck away the old nesting material, if you prefer not to touch it. Safely dispose of the nesting material so that it does not attract any predators.
When cleaning your boxes you may notice that woodpeckers or squirrels have damaged or enlarged the entry hole. You can quickly fix the problem and prevent future occurrences with a nest box plate.
Some cavity nesting birds such as chickadees, titmice and nuthatches will use them this winter for roosting sites during the cold nights. To improve your chances of attracting chickadees, add some wood shavings to the nest box, as they are attracted to cavities where they have to carry out wood chips. Also, consider placing some dry grass or clean straw in the bottom about an inch or so deep to provide more insulation.
Although there are natural foods available during the fall, there are several reasons to keep your feeders full during the autumn months. First, juvenile goldfinch and other birds are active at feeders during the fall. It’s important to keep nyjer or thistle feed in your finch feeder, hulled sunflower in your tube feeders, and a high quality, seasonally adjusted seed blend in your platform feeders for these young birds. There is an increased chance of enjoying migrating species in your yard. Also, some permanent residents are likely to return more frequently to your feeders such as tufted titmice or woodpeckers.
Some wild birds begin feeding actively in September in order to begin building extra body fat to help them through the harsh, cold winter months. Having a consistent, ready supply of food for wild birds is the most effective way to establish a population of winter resident birds in and around your yard.
Wild birds rely on water not only to avoid dehydration, but also for bathing. It’s vital that they clean their feathers frequently so that they can maintain both effective and efficient flight. Water should be consistently offered throughout the coldest winter months because many backyard birds must bathe year around.
The easiest and most reliable way to avoid ice is to install a high quality, efficient and safe deicer. This device is energy efficient since it only prevents freezing rather than keeping water warm.
Enjoy your birds!