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Gardening with Wanda: Provide shelter, food and water for backyard birds this winter
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Do you like to watch birds? If you are like me, I love to spot different birds in my backyard and see if I can identify them.

One of the best ways to attract our many different and diverse feathered friends is to create a backyard shelter for their food and protection.

What can you do with the leftover Christmas tree in January? Create a much-needed backyard shelter with a leftover tree or create a brush pile full of twigs and limbs as protection for birds and other small wildlife in the winter. While evergreens provide color in the landscape, they also help protect the bird wildlife by supplying shelter from their enemies and the harsh winter weather. Consider planting some evergreens.

January is that one month when providing shelter, as well as food and water, may really make a difference to the birds in your backyard. When we have cold, ice and sometimes a little snow, food and shelter can be scarce for our feathered friends.

Did you know that 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.

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 also homebodies and love peanuts. Sprinkle white millet in and around bushes in your yard just before dark and enjoy watching some backyard chaos as different ground-feeding birds enjoy their meal.

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

Water and water some more for the birds! In January, create birdbaths in your yard. Even though it may give you the shivers to see them splashing away in the cold, this activity actually helps the birds stay warm. Birds need open water to drink, as many water sources may be frozen.

Refilling a birdbath with warm water in the morning or actually investing in a heated birdbath may be the way to go if you enjoy bird watching in your yard.

Kids really enjoy creating birdfeeders 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. Also, the birds will be happy to have received a high-energy treat.

Feeding and sheltering the birds in the winter can bring lots of colorful activity to your yard. Spread out some thistle seed and suet cakes and see if it attracts some beautifully colored birds that you might not have seen before.

Remember the University Cooperative Extension offices are here to help with all of your gardening needs and questions. Just give us a call or email me with your questions. We are here to provide up-to-date research based answers to all of your inquiries. Happy New Year!

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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