Feeders can be vital for helping birds survive winter

Wintry weather is on the way, so now is a good time to make sure your feeders and other bird-feeding paraphernalia are up and ready to help our feathered creatures make it through the winter.

Wintertime is when the birds really need nutritious food from our feeders. It provides them with the additional energy they need to stay warm during frigid winter nights.

After having burned most of their stored fat to survive the nighttime chill, most songbirds immediately must start searching for food again at dawn or risk starvation. Carolina chickadees, for instance, will eat twice as much food on cold days as on warm days.

Conveniently located backyard feeders full of clean, healthy food will make it easier for the birds to survive the winter.

Here are a few winter-feeding tips from various experts:

• The best all-around bird food is black-oil sunflower seed. It has a high meat-to-shell ratio, is high in fat, and its small size and thin shell make it easy for small birds to handle and crack. Black-oil sunflower seeds also will attract the greatest variety of birds: Northern cardinals, blue jays, Carolina chickadees, house and purple finches, American goldfinches, nuthatches, tufted titmice and others.

• Most health-conscious humans shy away from fat, but, for birds in winter, fat is an excellent energy source. And the best source of fat for birds, especially woodpeckers, is suet. Other birds that will come to suet feeders in winter include flickers, nuthatches, titmice and chickadees.

• Even though the weather is cold, keep feeders clean. Wash them regularly in a light bleach water solution. Rinse thoroughly and dry.

• Birds also need water during winter. So, keep bird baths full of clean water. If freezing becomes a problem, you can purchase small heaters from bird-supply stores to keep the water thawed.

• And don’t forget the hummingbirds. If you leave up a feeder filled with nectar during the cold months, chances are good that you will attract a winter hummingbird.

In the sky: The Leonid meteor shower will reach a peak Monday night of about 15 meteors per hour, said David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer.

The moon, now last-quarter, rises around midnight and sets around lunchtime. Mercury is low in the east just before dawn. Mars is low in the southwest at sunset and sets about an hour later. Jupiter rises out of the east just before midnight.

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