Feeding Birds from the Winter Garden
The garden doesn't have to be dull and quiet during winter. In fact, it can be a source of entertainment and delight if you landscape with wildlife in mind. Several years ago, we intentionally planted plants to add value for birds and critters during the cold weather months when foraging becomes more challenging. Home gardens are more critical than ever in supporting these species.
There are several ways to draw birds to the garden throughout the winter. Providing layers of vegetation offers a more complex structure that they appreciate. Birds forage in all layers of the landscape from the tree canopy to the understory, shrub and ground levels. Consider
- adding native berry producing trees and shrubs that persist into winter to provide food for fructivores
- planting trees that produce nuts such as oak and hickory feed the nut eaters
- not pruning back perennials until they break dormancy in spring, creates a seed buffet for granivores
- creating areas that mimic the forest floor allowing insectivores a place to forage
Birds spend much of their day in search of food and present different foraging techniques depending on the species. Some birds scratch the ground to uncover insects, worms and grubs. Provide for these birds by leaving the leaves. Not only does this allow overwintering insects to complete their lifecycle, but also provides scratchers such as the Eastern towhee, and brown thrasher a food source.
Seed eating birds rely on plants with dried flowers where they can pluck seeds. Waiting until spring to cut back these dried plant stalks will provide an important food source.
Goldfinches often perch on plants in the Asteraceae family, where they balance gracefully and swing on stalks to reach the seed heads. Provide sunflowers (Helianthus), asters (Symphyotrichum), coneflowers (Echinacea), and goldenrod (Solidago).
|To see goldfinches feeding on these plants during summer read here.|
|Sapsuckers usually chose already declining trees.|
|goldenrod gals are important protein source for |
downy woodpeckers and black capped chickadees
Pine warblers tend to come down from the tree tops during winter, making them less of a stranger to our backyard. They are hard to miss with their bright yellow feathers. In winter, it is easier to distinguish pine warblers from goldfinches, as goldfinches are seasonally dimorphic, altering from mustard gold to olive-brown tones.
|blue jay with prized insect|
Now is a good time to evaluate how well your garden provides for our feathered friends. Consider those important trees and shrubs that provide a reliable food source. Are you providing shelter opportunities during the winter months? Gardens rich in berries and seeds, not only help birds during the barren winter months, but also prepares them for a healthy spring breeding season.