Darrell Blackwelder: Provide food and water for our feathered friends

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 28, 2023

Cold weather takes its toll on many animals outdoors including our birds. Freezing temperatures greatly reduce song birds and other wildlife’s chance of survival during the winter months. The key to wildlife survival is providing ample food and water during cold weather.

Supplemental food supplies are important through the winter months. Bird feeders with various types of bird seed and other bird-related products are now stock items for most garden centers, hardware stores and retail outlets.

A consistent source of water during freezing temperatures is extremely important. 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.

In addition to supplemental bird seed, adding landscape plants that supply a food source during the winter will add fresh food and needed shelter. Evergreen holly, dogwood and other shrubs loaded with berries are important; however, native plants are a very important factor. Native plants attract more insects which are important for their survival than cultivated trees and shrubs. Birds rely on insects as a food source for their young fledglings. Ornithologists estimate that a chickadee brood of 4-5 chicks consumes thousands of caterpillars! Native oak trees attract over 534 species of insects for the hungry chicks. Many bird species require insects during the breeding season while rearing their young. So, along with the holly and dogwood berries in your landscape, be sure to include native plants.

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

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