Winter Shelter

Our native wildlife have many strategies for coping with the long, cold winter months. Some pack up and head for warmer surroundings once daylight begins to diminish. Others find a cozy burrow and sleep until conditions improve. There is however a hardy bunch of local wildlife that remains active throughout the winter. Their strategy is simply to tough it out. This resilient group of animals, many of which are birds, is highly dependent on obtaining high quality food and dependable shelter. Having a place to escape the elements and predators is very important to the survival of these year round residents. Desirable shelter includes dense evergreens such as Eastern red cedar or pine trees, hollow areas in trees, nests, bird houses, brush piles, or dense overgrown areas.

This pile of cuttings serves as a winter wildlife habitat.

Credit: frederick.forestryboard.org - Mike Kay

Obtaining water is very important as well. Flowing streams, marshy areas, open water and bird baths are sought after once the usual sources begin freezing over. A high quality food source is equally important, especially with birds which have a high metabolism and cannot store fat like other animals. Birds do not have much time before they will starve if deprived of food. Maintaining bird feeders and growing a variety of shrubs that produce seeds, nuts, and berries is vital for the survival of birds and other wildlife. Many of these low growing shrubs also provide desirable cover for our intrepid wildlife as well. Plants like silky and gray dogwood, winterberry holly, Eastern red cedar, crabapple, sumac, and hop hornbeam are noted for providing wintertime nourishment. Sometimes this beneficial habitat my look unkempt, messy, or unhealthy to some, but to a cold, hungry animal this habitat is like a winter oasis.

Article by FCFCDB member

Nature Note for 1/5/2014