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Backyard Birds
Explore, Enjoy and Protect Prince William Natural Areas

How do birds survive the winter?

Song SparrowBirds might seem small and fragile, but some remarkable adaptations help them stay alive through even the harshest conditions. For one, they tuck their feet and legs up into their breasts and fluff up their feathers, creating an insulating layer of air… an advantage duplicated by our down jackets.

They also huddle together, sheltered in tree cavities or dense shrubs. Shivering produces more body heat and, at night, birds can actually lower their body temperature to save energy.

But even so, winter weather can be a death sentence if birds cannot find enough food to keep up their energy. This is where we come in. With most food sources buried under the snow, backyard bird feeders can make the difference between life and death for many birds.

High-calorie seed mixes supplemented with a little food from your kitchen will help save the day and also provide many enjoyable hours of bird watching from the comfort of your home. Stock hanging feeders with black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, high-fat nuts and dried fruit. Blackbirds and thrushes appreciate apples and pears, suet blocks mixed with nuts or dried insects are life-savers for woodpeckers and many other birds.

Make sure your feeders are located in places where birds are safe from wandering cats… even well fed cats are well known predators of birds. Feeders should be high off the ground and far enough away from anything a cat could use to jump to the feeder.

is also important, birds need water every day. There’s plenty of snow, but melting snow inside little bird bodies takes more energy. Providing a place for a drink of clean water is important during all seasons, and may attract more birds than feeders.

Make sure you clean both water and feeders regularly to avoid contamination from droppings, especially when winter weather conditions make other food sources difficult to find and backyard feeders are heavily used. Then sit back and enjoy the show from inside your warm, snug home!

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