We don’t consider the winter months as prime-time for bird watching and quite often forget about our feathered friends during the season in which they rely on us the most for food. Take care of migrating winter birds as they pass your way by providing some creature comforts, like food, water and a warm bath. Plant some of these food-giving shrubs, keep bird feeders full and provide a birdbath for water and bathing to attract birds during the winter to brighten your landscape.
Green shrubs and food is hard to come by during the winter months, but some shrubs put on their best landscape show and food production against the backdrop of a frozen, snow-covered landscape.
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) and Holly (Ilex) are two such shrubs that are easy to grow, provide landscape color during the bleak winter months and food for hungry birds. Winterberry shrubs are deciduous and produce their bright red berries on leafless limbs and Holly shrubs can be deciduous or evergreen, depending on variety planted, but either will produce red berries and attract birds during the winter.
Any type of conifer tree (pines, junipers, spruces, etc.) will also keep some living greenery in your winter landscape and provide nutrition-packed pinecones that attract a wide variety of birds.
With less food available, birds will be pigging out when they do find a food source, so be sure to keep bird feeders stocked with fresh seeds. Consider adding an extra bird feeder or a suet holder to your landscape when the temperatures begin to drop in the late fall. Suet is an especially good food source for the birds in the winter, the fat-based food helps keep their body’s warm in frigid temperatures. Ants and other small pests are not a problem during the winter, so hang bird feeders close to windows or set them on porch rails so you will get an enjoyable show from the feeding fowls. Stock up on birdseed and suet in the early fall before the local nurseries run out of stock as most don’t re-order until near winter’s end.
Birds still need water to drink during cold weather and like us, they enjoy a warm bath on a cold day. Keeping the water from freezing during the winter months can be challenging, but not impossible. Change the water frequently in mild climates to prevent freezing and in colder climates consider purchasing a heated birdbath or one that keeps the water circulating to prevent freezing.