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Darrell Blackwelder: Helping the birds through winter

Cold weather is difficult for most everything outdoors, including our birds. Freezing temperatures greatly reduce song birds and other wildlife’s chance of survival.
The key to help our wildlife is to provide ample feed and water during this type of weather.

One of the most important aspects for birds’ winter survival is a consistent source of water, especially with freezing temperatures. Bird bath heaters allow water to flow during freezing temperatures.
These heaters don’t actually heat the water, but keep the temperature just warm enough to prevent freezing.

Supplemental food supplies are also important during the winter months. Bird feeders, various types of bird seed and other bird related products are stock items for most garden centers and retail outlets.
It’s also important to include landscape plantings that supplies a food source during the winter and provides shelter. Landscape plants are an important factor in the survival of many bird species.
Evergreen holly, dogwood, and other shrubs with berries are important; however, native plants are most important. Native plants attract more insects than cultivated varieties which is important for their survival.

Birds rely on insects as a food source for their young fledglings. Ornithologists estimate that a chickadee brood of 4-5 chicks will consume thousands of caterpillars!
Native oak trees attract over 534 species of insects for the hungry chicks. Most bird species require insects while breeding and rearing their young.
So along with the holly and dogwood berries in your landscape, be sure to include native plants that will attract insects.

Darrell Blackwelder deblackw@ncsu.edu is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.

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