As hard as this long, snowy winter has been on us – it’s been a lot harder on our resident birds and migratory species returning home. Because of the deep snow, birds are struggling to find food, and many are dying from hunger or becoming too weak to fly.
Robins and American Woodcocks are finding things particularly difficult, in part because they have very selective feeding habits. Many Nova Scotians are finding dead birds, or birds sitting immobile at the side of roads or in their backyards.
The good new is that you can help.
For American Woodcocks, soaking some cat kibble in warm water, or using chunky canned cat food, and spreading it on any exposed ground under trees can be life saving for weakened birds.
Only putting out small amounts is a good idea, because the food can also attract predators like house cats, and starving birds are often too weak to fly away.
If you don’t mind going to some extra trouble, earthworms or mealy worms are also welcomed by these birds, and can be obtained in many specialty or big-box pet stores.
For Robins, a mix of soaked cat kibble, chopped hard-boiled eggs, chopped apple, fresh or frozen berries and chunky canned cat food is eagerly eaten. Spread it on the ground in clear areas, and watch hungry robins arrive.
It’s important to check your feeding areas daily, removing any spoiled food, and replacing it with fresh. Most experts recommend that birds not be fed bread as they can choke on it, and it does not carry the correct nutritional value.
Even our resident birds are struggling. Black Oil Sunflower seeds are the preferred food for many Nova Scotia backyard birds.
Keeping feeders full of this readily available seed is a huge help in reducing bird mortality. Keeping feeders away from windows reduces the risk of bird strikes, another major cause of bird mortality.
While the weather is cold, seed mix containing cracked corn and nuts helps birds keep warm and fattens them with the correct oils – naturally contained in these feed mixtures.
Bird suet is good too, but remove it from the nylon net packaging it comes in, because birds can get caught up in the netting, and will become seriously injured or die in their struggles to escape.
With nesting time imminent, feeding birds is especially important. But you can help in other ways as well. Small fabric scraps, strips of knitting wool, cotton batting – hung in trees in thin shreds are taken by birds to line nests and create warm, cozy environments for both eggs, and later, baby birds.
If you’re going to help, it’s important to do it regularly (every day) because the birds will quickly become accustomed to the food and will hang-out in your yard, limiting their ability to find food elsewhere.
Until the snow and ice retreat enough that at least half the visible ground is clear, continuing to feed can mean the difference between life and death for many birds.
The best part? The birds will reward you by keeping your garden free of bugs this summer, and providing glorious colour and song throughout the warmer months.
Originally Published by The Chronicle Herald
Alexandra Kelter is a social media specialist with Central Home Improvements. Her column covers many aspects of home improvement, both indoor and outdoor, and will combine trending styles with practical applications all within realistic budgets. Kelter is also passionate about fashion, travel, living by the ocean and her bulldog.