As Massachusetts dons its winter cloak of snow and ice, a remarkable symphony of bird calls and songs pierces the crisp air.
From chickadees to cardinals, our feathered friends are in search of sustenance to brave the chilly days and frosty nights. Aiding them in their quest not only ensures their survival but also adds a splash of color and melody to our winter landscapes.
Whether you’re nestled in the Berkshires or closer to the Cape, join us as we uncover the art and science of feeding winter birds in the Bay State.
Why Feed Winter Birds in Massachusetts?
Winter in Massachusetts can be harsh, with cold temperatures, deep snow, and high winds. However, it is also the best time to get close looks at backyard birds. Many birds come quickly and easily to bird feeders during the winter months, and they soon become quite fearless. In summer, these birds may flee as soon as you open your door.
Feeding birds in winter can be a rewarding experience for both adults and children. It provides an opportunity to observe and learn about the different species of birds that live in your area. Children can learn about nature and the importance of habitat conservation by feeding birds in their backyard.
Feeding birds in winter can also help them survive during a time when food is scarce. Birds have a high metabolism and need to consume large amounts of food each day just to stay warm. By providing a consistent source of food, you can help them conserve energy and survive the cold winter months.
It is important to note that feeding birds in winter should be done responsibly. Supplemental feed sites can congregate wildlife into unnaturally high densities, which can attract predators and increase the risk of death by wild predators or domestic pets. It is also important to provide a variety of foods, such as seeds, suet, and fruit, to meet the different nutritional needs of the birds.
What Foods to Offer Winter Birds in Massachusetts?
When it comes to feeding winter birds in Massachusetts, it’s important to offer a variety of foods that will meet the different dietary needs of the birds. Here are some of the best foods to offer winter birds in Massachusetts:
Seed-eating birds are the most common in winter, making seeds a great food option. Black oil sunflower seeds are a favorite of many birds, including northern cardinals, sparrows, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, and American goldfinches. White proso millet is another popular seed that attracts a variety of birds, including black-capped chickadees, Carolina wrens, tufted titmice, and white-breasted nuthatches. Cracked corn is also a favorite of many birds, including downy woodpeckers, American tree sparrows, eastern bluebirds, European starlings, northern mockingbirds, and white-throated sparrows.
Suet is a high-energy food that is especially important for birds during the winter months. It’s a great source of protein and fat, which helps birds maintain their body temperature and stay warm. Suet is a favorite of many birds, including woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice.
While seed-eating birds are the most common in winter, some birds also eat fruit. If you have fruit trees in your yard, you may be able to attract birds like American robins and blue jays. Apples, oranges, and grapes are all good fruit options to offer birds.
In addition to seeds, suet, and fruit, there are a few other foods you can offer winter birds in Massachusetts. Mixed seeds are a good option if you want to attract a variety of birds. Peanut butter is also a favorite of many birds, and you can spread it on a pinecone or a piece of bread to make it easier for birds to eat. Mealworms are another high-protein food that is especially important for birds during the winter months.
Types of Feeders for Winter Birds in Massachusetts
When it comes to feeding winter birds in Massachusetts, using the right type of feeder can help attract a variety of species and keep them coming back for more. Below are some of the most common types of feeders for winter birds in Massachusetts.
Seed feeders are the most popular type of feeder for winter birds in Massachusetts. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from tube feeders to hopper feeders to platform feeders. Tube feeders are great for small birds like finches and chickadees, while hopper feeders are better for larger birds like cardinals and jays. Platform feeders are great for ground-feeding birds like juncos and sparrows.
When choosing birdseed for your feeder, it’s important to choose a high-quality mix that contains a variety of seeds, such as sunflower seeds, millet, and cracked corn. Avoid seed mixes that contain a lot of filler, such as wheat or oats.
Suet feeders are another popular type of feeder for winter birds in Massachusetts. Suet is a high-energy food made from animal fat and is especially important for birds during the winter months when food is scarce. Suet feeders come in a variety of styles, including cages, baskets, and logs.
When choosing suet for your feeder, look for high-quality suet that contains a variety of ingredients, such as nuts, berries, and insects. Avoid suet that contains a lot of filler, such as cornmeal or wheat.
In addition to seed and suet feeders, there are a variety of other feeders that can be used to attract winter birds in Massachusetts. These include:
- Fruit feeders: These feeders are great for attracting fruit-eating birds like cedar waxwings and robins. Offer fresh fruit like apples, oranges, and grapes.
- Nectar feeders: These feeders are great for attracting hummingbirds. Use a mix of four parts water to one part sugar.
- Mealworm feeders: These feeders are great for attracting insect-eating birds like bluebirds and wrens. Offer live or dried mealworms.
When setting up your feeders, be sure to place them in a location that is easily visible and accessible to birds, but also safe from predators like cats. Keep your feeders clean and filled with fresh food to keep birds coming back all winter long.
Other local states:
- Feeding Winter Birds in Maine
- Feeding Winter Birds in New Hampshire
- Feeding Winter Birds in Vermont
- Feeding Winter Birds in Rhode Island
- Feeding Winter Birds in Connecticut
Other Tips for Feeding Winter Birds in Massachusetts
In addition to providing food for winter birds, there are other things you can do to help them thrive during the colder months. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Provide a Birdbath
Birds need water to drink and bathe in, even in the winter. Providing a heated birdbath can be a lifesaver for birds during the colder months. Make sure to keep the water clean and change it regularly to prevent the spread of disease.
Deal with Squirrels
Squirrels can be a nuisance when it comes to bird feeders, but there are ways to deal with them. Consider using squirrel-proof feeders or placing baffles on poles to prevent squirrels from climbing up to the feeder. You can also provide a separate squirrel feeder to distract them from the bird feeder.
Choose the Right Seed
Different birds prefer different types of seeds, so it’s important to choose the right mix for the birds you want to attract. Black oil sunflower seeds are a favorite of many species, but you can also offer mixed seed or nyjer seed for finches.
Consider Winter Weather
Winter weather can be harsh, so it’s important to keep your bird feeder clean and dry to prevent mold and bacteria growth. You can also provide shelter for birds by placing roosting boxes or nesting materials in your yard.
Attract Year-Round Residents
While some birds migrate south for the winter, there are many species that stay in Massachusetts year-round. By providing food, water, and shelter, you can attract these birds to your yard and enjoy their company throughout the winter.
Help with Migration
If you want to attract migrating birds to your yard, consider planting native plants that provide food and shelter. You can also provide a source of water, such as a birdbath or pond, to help birds rest and refuel during their journey.
Dealing with Predators and Diseases
Feeding winter birds is a great way to help them survive the harsh winter months, but it can also attract predators and spread diseases. Here are some tips to help you deal with these issues:
Bird feeders can attract predators such as hawks, cats, and raccoons. To minimize the risk of predation, consider the following:
- Place feeders in an open area where predators are less likely to ambush birds.
- Use baffles or cages to protect feeders from predators.
- Keep cats indoors or use deterrents such as motion-activated sprinklers or ultrasonic devices.
If you notice a predator in your backyard, it’s best to stop feeding birds for a few weeks to encourage the predator to look elsewhere for food.
Bird feeders and birdbaths can also spread diseases among birds. To minimize the risk of disease transmission, consider the following:
- Clean feeders and birdbaths regularly with soap and water, and disinfect them with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.
- Avoid overcrowding at feeders by providing multiple feeding stations.
- Remove feeders and birdbaths temporarily if you notice sick birds in your backyard.
One disease that has been causing concern recently is the outbreak of avian influenza, or bird flu, in some parts of the world. While there have been no reported cases of bird flu in Massachusetts, it’s important to take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. This includes avoiding contact with sick birds, wearing gloves when handling bird feeders or bird baths, and reporting any sick or dead birds to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.