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Robin Friedman: Birds in winter: Our feathered friends in need
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Did you know many birds do not migrate in the winter to warmer climates? That means we need to find creative ways to supply the birds with sufficient food sources.

One of the best ways to attract many different and diverse feathered friends is to create backyard shelter for their food and protection. And January is the one month when providing shelter, food and water really make a difference to the birds. When we have cold, ice and sometimes a little snow, food and shelter can be scarce for our feathered friends.

To create a much-needed backyard shelter, use the leftover Christmas tree or create a brush pile full of twigs and limbs for birds and other small wildlife.

Consider planting some evergreens. They protect birds and wildlife by supplying shelter from their enemies and the harsh winter weather while providing color in the landscape.

Once shelter is checked off your list, move onto food sources.

Water and water some more for the birds, they need open water to drink, as many water sources may be frozen. And splashing away in cold water actually helps the birds stay warm.

In January, create birdbaths in your yard and refill them with warm water in the morning. Or actually investing in a heated birdbath may be the way to go if you enjoy bird watching.

If you have bird feeders in your yard, fill them with birdseed just before dark. Then the cold, hungry birds will have a meal waiting at the first morning light.

Permanent bird residents will appreciate a high-calorie food mix, loaded with fatty black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts or suet. Cardinals, chickadees and nuthatches love sunflower seeds. Woodpeckers will be thankful for a steady source of suet. Blue jays are homebodies and love peanuts.

Place feeders where cats cannot hide and harm the birds when they come to feed. Situate feeders so birds are protected from strong winds. A good spot is a somewhat open area with bushes or trees nearby for shelter or escape.

Use a variety of feeders. Aggressive birds may prevent other birds from feeding if only one feeder is used. Small feeders without perches are good for small grasping birds. Feeders low to the ground will attract ground-feeding birds such as juncos and native sparrows. Larger above-ground feeders will draw cardinals, grosbeaks, mourning doves and other larger birds.

If you don’t have bird feeders, make some. Kids can create birdfeeders by using pine cones rolled in peanut butter and birdseed. Help children hang them in a tree or bush where they can easily watch the birds feed through a window or door. The birds will be happy to have received a high-energy treat.

Or simply sprinkle white millet in and around bushes in the yard just before dark and enjoy watching some backyard chaos as different ground-feeding birds enjoy a meal. You can also spread out thistle seed and suet cakes and see if it attracts some beautifully colored birds you might not have seen before.

Once you have filled your feeders or spread the seeds, store unused birdseed in a tightly sealed container. Birdseed is the No. 1 source for luring unwanted pests into homes.

By being a friend to birds by providing shelter, food and drink in the cold months, you can learn to identify them and observe their beauty.

Robin Lynn Friedman is the Master Gardener coordinator for the Hall County Extension Office. She can be reached at or 770-535-8293.