Winter Food Source for Birds

There are a number of native birds that tough it out with us during the winter and do not travel to warmer climates like our part time visitors. These year round residents often adapt their eating habits to the season, transitioning from a diet that includes insects when it’s warm, to more vegetarian fare of seeds, leaf buds, berries, nuts, and other plant parts during the winter. Some enterprising birds will root around on the ground in search of hibernating insects, but most depend on food from plants or offerings from sympathetic homeowners. Winter can be a very stressful and dangerous time for these birds since food is scarce, it’s cold and windy outside, and deciduous trees have lost their leaves so that they are more exposed to predators.

Robins feeding in a tree in Baker Park

Credit: - Sam Yu

Many people help our winter residents by putting out bird feeders with seed and suet, along with a water source. In addition to these measures, you can help birds by planting an assortment of trees and shrubs that provide winter cover, and/or a food source for many species. Some plants that provide favorable cover and food for birds during the winter include grey and silky dogwood, hawthorn, crabapple, black gum, hollies (especially American and winterberry holly,) chokeberry, bayberry, hackberry, and sumac. Evergreen trees and shrubs provide a safe haven that birds can utilize to avoid predators or escape the winter chill. Many of these trees have cones with nutritious seed or berries that are also valued by birds. The eastern red cedar is a good example of such a tree. This native cedar is a slow growing, dense conifer that produces a red berry that is a prized food by many over wintering birds, especially cedar waxwings.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature note for 12/12/20