It seems only natural to me that so many gardeners become bird lovers. Many gardeners create hummingbird gardens, for instance; however, they soon discover that other flowers they have planted along with the various trees and shrubs, also attract numerous other species of birds. In addition, we gardeners realize that the birds can be a big help to us by eating a lot of the bad bugs that invade our gardens. We find, too, that it is fun to watch the different types of birds that come to visit. In order to encourage more birds to visit, we put out bird feeders, fill up bird baths, and set out birdhouses. Unfortunately, one thing that I have noticed much too often is that far too many gardeners quit feeding the birds as soon as winter and cold weather hits. This is one of the worst things you can do, because birds need more food to get them through the cold winter nights. Food can be difficult to find in the winter, which means that the birds need some help from us gardeners. Following are some tips for helping out the birds that frequent your gardens.
Keep the regulars fed
There are numerous species of birds that remain in the area through the winter. For example, in my area of Northeast Tennessee, we always have blue jays, cardinals, titmice, chickadees, various species of sparrows and finches, and wrens. These birds do love black oil sunflower seeds, so be sure to keep your feeders well stocked for any of the seed-eating birds that visit your garden in the winter.
Remember the woodpeckers
I have both downy and hairy woodpeckers that are regular visitors to my feeders. In addition, red-bellied woodpeckers show up quite often, and every now and then I will see a yellow-bellied sapsucker. While woodpeckers will eat seed, they do love suet. Be sure, therefore, to keep your suet feeders full. Some of your other birds, such as chickadees and titmice, will also enjoy the suet.
Don't forget the ground feeders
Junco and doves are just two species that prefer to feed on the ground, so you should scatter some seed about for them. I also scatter some seed on the driveway, which the juncos really like. In addition, remember to scatter some more seed after a heavy snow.
Provide some quick treats
You can purchase bark butter, which is a spreadable suet, that you can smear on a tree. I have, however, found that peanut butter -- especially chunky peanut butter -- works just as well and is cheaper. Just spread some on the trunk of a tree or in a knot hole. Woodpeckers just love this.
You should also toss out bread and crackers, as well as fruit and nuts. Blue jays in particular like these treats. (Our blue jays really like leftover pizza, too.)
In the garden
Your garden also provides food for the birds. The berries found on many shrubs are real favorites. In addition, the seed heads of such perennials as coneflowers and 'Autumn Joy' sedum are also good food sources. After a heavy snow, remember to shake the snow off these sources of food so the birds can get to them. Birds will also search for seeds among ornamental grasses, so do not cut these back in the fall. (You should really wait until the spring when new growth begins to appear to cut them back anyway.) You might also notice some birds, such as the golden-crowned kinglet, flitting around your pine trees. They like to feast on bugs and larvae that hibernate on the tips of evergreens.
You always enjoy the birds that visit your garden in the spring and summer months. Provide them with food, and you will be able to also enjoy them during the winter months as well. In addition, you will be helping the wild birds during the time of the year when they need food the most and have the hardest time finding enough.