Wintertime Bird Feeding
The infamous February 2021 freeze, Storm Uri, left an enormous percentage of East Texans without power and water for several days. It was a dangerous situation, not just for us humans but also for our wildlife. This storm left our local birds without critical food supplies for days, right when they needed far more calories to survive. During a usual winter there is less native fruit, natural seed and insect life, but during Storm Uri there was virtually zero. Thousands of birds died. Much of the food our feathered friends did get during those sub-zero days came from backyard bird feeders, and from intrepid folks willing to tromp out into the freezing cold to replenish them.
How can you help the birds this winter? If you don’t have a feeder, consider putting up one or two. And, of course, buy plenty of bird seed and fats. What kinds? There are so many, and every store has a good supply right now. Some personal favorites are:
- Sunflower seed. The seed that all birds love.
- Safflower seed. Many birds prefer these smaller white seeds.
- Mixed seed. Make sure this has no oat or milo because birds won’t eat these.
- Suet. Rendered beef fat is a good source of calories for birds.
Scatter seed on the ground for those birds that like to ruffle about, but your local squirrels may g
et more than their fair share of it. Then again, that might be fine. You will just need a lot more seed!
If you run out of seed, and a major freeze makes the birds desperate, toss out berries, grapes and cut up pieces of any kind of fruit (but not apple seeds which are poisonous to birds), or even grated cheeses. These human foods will provide birds with critical calories until more seed can be provided.
You can always take down your feeders during spring-summer when there is an excess of natural fruits, seed and insect life, but during our more difficult winters your seed and feeders can provide the difference between survival and starvation.
Learn more about the incredible nature in our area by joining a chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist organization. To find a chapter close to you, or to read about the state program, go online to https://txmn.tamu.edu Volunteer and get involved!