Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 19, 2014

Please feed birds during  cold winter

By Susan Chapin | Feb 20, 2014

To the editor:

This is one of the coldest winters in over 30 years.

Imagine being outside all the time having to forage for food and water that you absolutely needed to make it to the next day or week? Well, the birds do and so do the other critters out there.

With more than a foot of snow on the ground for the past weeks, it’s impossible to find anything to eat. A bird must eat nearly half of its body weight every day in order to keep its body temperature up and survive. I am writing to remind the readers to feed the birds, and if you haven’t taken up the hobby, this would be a good time to start!

This quote from the Internet verifies what I’ve learned: birds eat more in the winter than in the summer due to metabolic needs. For example, a sparrow can only survive 15 hours without food in 5 degree Fahrenheit conditions, but three days in warm summer conditions.

If you want to attract more birds, put out more feeders. I have at least four along with two wire suet holders as well. It is also good to spread seed on the ground as some species feed only there, like the juncos and mourning doves. Keep in mind with suet, you can also break it up and leave it on the ground or mix seeds with it in its plastic case and leave it on the ground. That will help those that need that extra insulating fat who don’t go to the high hanging suet racks to eat and stay warm.

Can you imagine going without water for weeks on end? Yes, the birds can eat the snow, but when it is extremely cold wouldn’t you want a milder drink than a freezing one? Lakes and streams are frozen, remember, and then there are the weeks when there is no snow. I put out a heated birdbath of water, and even in the winter, yes, I endeavor to keep it clean.

Cleaning the feeders and water is important, since bacteria can affect the users of it. You could even use a heated dog water bowl, modified so birds don’t fall in. They need water just as much as we do!

My favorite birds to see at the feeders are cardinals: they like the black oil sunflower seeds the best. On occasion, I even get two red-headed woodpeckers at once. They will eat both suet and hang off of the regular wood feeders to get their food. I have seen them on the ground as well. It is good to have a variety of kinds of seed on the ground, but most ground feeders will eat millet; even bread or toast thrown out will help somebody. In the warmer months, it is important to wet that bread, so it does not get caught in their throat.

I care about all the creatures so I put out corn cobs for the deer and squirrels, as well as nuts and loose corn. Does anyone care about feeding pigeons or crows? Probably not, but they need to eat to survive too! Comments or questions, email: givahoot2007@yahoo.com. I hope you give a hoot about the birds too!

 

– Susan Chapin, Fairfield

 

(Editor’s note: This letter was written last week when the temperatures were considerably lower)

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