You can help wild birds survive the winter – or an extremely cold winter night – by providing a variety of rich, high-energy foods for them. A study in Wisconsin found that when chickadees had access to bird feeders, they were much more likely to live through the winter. (With feeders, almost 70 percent survived. Without feeders, only 37 percent survived.) But once birds become used to finding food at your feeder, it’s important to keep feeding them through the winter because they will depend on the food you give them.
Favorite winter foods for wild birds:
Suet and bacon grease
Sunflower seeds (they are high in fat)
Greasy crusts and crumbs, donuts
Small birdseed, such as millet, canary seed, chicken feed, and cracked corn
Large birdseed, such as sunflower seeds, wheat, oats, corn, buckwheat, and soybean
Peanut butter, nuts (high in fat)
Fruits, such as chopped apples, bananas, and raisins
COOL experiments for young birdwatchers:
Collect several disposable plastic containers, such as margarine tubs. Fill each container with a different kind of bird food and label each one with the name of the food. Fill one container with water and try to keep the water from freezing solid. Remove ice from the surface and add more water as often as you can. Place the containers outside for birds. (You might want to nail the containers to a board to keep them from being tipped over.)
There are lots of experiments you can do with this setup:
Watch how much food is left in each container to see which kinds of food are most popular with your winter birds.
Watch one container at a time to see which birds eat what.
Watch one bird at a time to see if it will try more than one kind of food.
Watch the container of water. How many of the birds that come to the feeder drink water? Are more birds attracted to the water on frozen days when puddles and ponds have turned to ice?
Keep a written record of your observations. Include the date, the time of day, and notes about the weather. What did you learn about the birds that visit your feeder?
Nature activity from A Kid’s Winter EcoJournal by Toni Albert.
Toni Albert, M.Ed., is an award-winning author of more than 40 books. Her lifelong love for nature, children, and books inspired her to commit her publishing business, Trickle Creek Books, to “teaching kids to care for the Earth.”