Keep the bird feeders out through the winter

For the birds that pass through or stick around through the season
For those flying through and sticking around this season
Published: Jan. 5, 2023 at 6:59 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Every year, the saying goes around that the birds will fly south as the winter season comes. While migratory birds pass through the Ozarks each year as the seasons get colder, some species in Missouri remain put.

It doesn’t come as a surprise to Jessica Kindall, manager of Wild Birds Unlimited in Springfield.

“It’s very common that many stay in the winter months,” says Kindall. “Just like the farmers harvest, the birds harvest, too. As we get further into winter, they deplete their natural resources, and then, they start to hit the feeders even harder especially leading into spring before nesting season.”

Kindall states that some species that like to stay in the area during the winter include the cardinals, blue jays, woodpeckers, mourning doves, and goldfinches. The reasons for some birds visiting one place through the winter vary from available resources and adapting to the cold to looking after their young. Those species could harvest enough seeds, insects, or worms to get through most of the season. For birds that fly through the region or run out of their harvested supply, the feeders become very important for their survival.

Kindall states that while a sunflower seed blend, especially with black oil sunflower seeds, can attract a wide variety of birds, special combinations of seeds during the winter can help birds out.

“You can add specialty foods into a blend like suet cakes,” Kindall says. “That’s being seasonally savvy. So, that’s providing a better fat and protein source during these cooler months where it’s most important for the birds to make it through to their breeding season.”

For those looking to get into bird feeding, Kindall wants people to be aware of inferior seed blends that are out there.

“A lot of inferior seed blends are filled with what we call filler seed,” Kindall explains. “It’s inexpensive food that birds actually don’t like to eat in this area. The main one is milo. Milo is a little, round, BB-looking seed that’s orangish or reddish. That is not a good food for this area. It just gets kicked out onto the ground.”

Kindall also states that using bread, popcorn, or corn is unsuitable for birds.

Regarding what type of feeder one can use, Kindall states one important feature that any seed or suet feeder must have.

“The ones that we carry at the store are easy to clean, which helps the health of the birds in general,” Kindall says. “It also helps maintain your bird food as well.”

In addition to the feeder, Kindall also states that it’s important that birds have a source of water available.

“Water sources freeze up, and people turn over their bird baths,” says Kindall. “Water becomes more scarce in the winter when it’s more important for birds to keep their feathers clean by bathing. That way, they can stay warm and insulated.”

For more information on how to get started with bird feeding, we have information from Wild Birds Unlimited and the Missouri Department of Conservation.

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