The hobby of bird watching is not restricted to warm months. In fact, a lot of bird species hang around all winter long and these varieties make for some enjoyable bird watching, feeding and picture taking.
Winter feeding of birds is actually recommended over summer feeding, though some feed these feathered friends all year round.
The reason some recommend feeding birds only during winter months, is to avoid annoying critters that might be attracted to bird feeders during the summer, but are safely hibernating over the cold winter months. Birds can more easily find food during the summer, but not so much when the weather is cold.
Such annoying critters include raccoons and bears which are the most common, but can include others. Bird food is probably not their preferred fare, but they’ve been known to frequent feeders they consider free for the pickings. And it’s not unusual for them to cause a little damage in the process.
To reduce the risk of any annoying critters hanging around when they should be sleeping during winter months, limit the amount of bird food you leave out to an average day’s feed and refill every morning. Critters normally strike at night or when dark and by then, birds have eaten and are retired for the night.
The kind of seed your birds will love depends on their breed and even then it’s not a sure thing. You may need to experiment with different mixes of sunflower, millet and Niger seed. The winter is also the best time to put out suet blocks, which provide birds with the fat they need to sustain them through a cold winter. Birds also love the occasional bread crusts and crumbs, whether fresh or dried and can often be seen carting away large morsels to their nests.
There’s quite a large variety of styles and sizes of bird feeders available. But if you don’t have any bird feeders, just throw some seed on a shoveled deck, walkway, balcony or on the ground. Birds will come to a balcony looking for seed even in the city, which provides those watching with a soothing and enjoyable rare look on the wild side.
It’s also interesting to keep a seasonal log of birds – breeds and numbers, that visit your yard or balcony. Some birds often turn out to be strays – those that missed the southern migration for whatever reason and you may not see this kind of bird in your area in the future.
If you don’t know too much about birds, identifying them is also a nice pastime and there are several books out, but I love the Lone Pine series; they provide excellent colored pictures and data on bird types, habits and patterns. Be sure to choose a bird book for your specific area if you want to be able to identify those that visit your yard. There are also many books designed to encourage kids to learn about birds.
Enjoy the birds. Except for a little cost of seed and suet, bird watching is a pretty cheap hobby that brings a lot of delight, especially when you witness the birds’ antics and characters.