Should I keep feeding them?
One of the questions we often get as the leaves start changing is “If I keep feeding the birds, will that stop them from migrating? ” No. Birds commence their migration based on several factors including the shortening day length, and accompanying colder weather. They will not stay in your area just because the seed is so good. : )
Since birds depend primarily upon natural food sources such as flower seeds, insects and berries, they will migrate to areas where these resources are more abundant. In our area, the supply of these food types is low in late summer, and with the cold snap of fall, they are not available for the birds. So they travel to regions to the south where the harvest can continue. Birdseed in feeders is merely a supplement to their diet, as studies have shown that birds actually consume three-quarters of their diet from natural sources.
Many avid birders notice that certain species seem especially ravenous in late summer and early fall. This increase in consumption is due to the birds building up a layer of fat which will help them fuel their migration.
While it’s not necessary to feed year round, many bird lovers do fill their feeders throughout the year. What about if you’re going to be out of town for a short period? If there’s a heavy snowfall or other harsh weather forecasted, make sure your feeders are filled when you leave or ask a neighbor to refill it for “your” birds. While the birds don’t need the extra food that we provide, this extra nutrition will provide them with some extra energy to survive the bad weather.
So, what should you feed the birds during the winter? Just as during warmer weather, black oil sunflower seeds attract the most variety of birds, and provide an excellent source of protein for the birds. Providing suet is another good addition during the colder months as it provides insect loving birds with another source of energy from the fat content. The suet will attract various woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and the tufted titmouse.
The main reason we feed the birds is to entice them to stay near us so we can observe them – so keep filling those feeders if you want to enjoy them in winter. You’re giving them an easy supply of extra food, and they entertain you and provide flashes of color during our long and gray winter.