Helping Birds Prepare for Stormy Weather

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

 Birds have been weathering the storm for millions of years - but that doesn't mean they need to go it alone! Winter storms can be life or death for wildlife, create a "storm kit" for your backyard birds to help them get through harsh weather using these tips.

Northern Cardinal feeding on Safflower Cylinder

Add some protein
When there is a storm brewing, the birds know. To prepare, they feed heavily to ensure they have enough energy to get them through the long, cold night. Adding protein-rich foods can help the birds get the boost they need to keep warm all night long. Offering high-fat & high-protein foods such as SuperSuet, Bark Butter, sunflower seed, mealworms, and peanuts & tree nuts, are perfect for helping birds build up that fat store they require to survive tough winter weather. 

Put Bark Butter everywhere
Though birds are built to fly in all types of weather, extreme winds can be dangerous to even the most agile of birds, particularly in cold weather. When it gets really windy, birds will typically hunker down and remain in one spot for as long as they can to avoid their feathers blowing away from their body and losing insulation. To help them stay put, birds sink their talons into or around their chosen perch and hold their feathers down tight to help keep the cold out. There are also some cavity dwellers, like woodpeckers, who will seek shelter in known cavities until the storm passes. But all of this staying put robs birds of their ability to feed, which drains their energy that they so desperately need during this type of weather. Spreading Bark Butter (WBU's spreadable suet) on trees and other surfaces around your yard can help the birds get the nourishment they need without having to travel far to get it. Bark Butter is also handy for days when you need to take your feeders down due to high winds, that way the birds can still feed even without access to bird feeders. 

American Robin at a WBU Heated Bird Bath

Add a heated bath
During the winter months, snow becomes the primary source of hydration for most of our backyard birds. It takes a lot of energy to convert snow to water, and during the cold winter months birds need to conserve as much energy as possible. You can help the birds in your yard stay hydrated by installing a heated bird bath. Heated bird baths keep the water temperature just above freezing which gives birds to opportunity to drink as needed throughout the cold winter months, and can help attract species not particularly known to visit feeders such as American Robins, Northern Flickers, and even some birds of prey. 

Weather domes
During inclement weather, birds are more likely to seek out food & areas that are well-sheltered. To help with this you can add weather guards above your feeders which act as shields from rain, snow, freezing rain, and wind. Domes will not only help the birds to feel safe & secure, but they can also help keep your offerings dry which cuts down on seed spoilage. 

American Goldfinches perched on repurposed Christmas tree

Create storm-ready habitat
Creating habitat that supports bird life in your yard year-round is the most crucial aspect of backyard birding. You can do this in several ways in addition to offering food & water, including planting and growing native plants that offer shelter as well as food (seeds, fruits), allowing dead trees to stand when safe to do so (creates shelter for cavity dwellers), creating brush piles with fallen branches, leaves, and rocks, and repurposing Christmas trees into extra shelter around your yard. 

Want to know how birds are able to survive the cold? Click here to find out!

Happy trails!
- Shayna

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