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Protect Winter Bird Feeders

How to Keep Winter Bird Feeders Useful

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Empty Winter Feeders

Unprotected feeders won't attract winter birds.

Paul Simpson

Snow and ice can damage bird feeders, clog feeding ports and spoil birdseed, but backyard birders who protect their winter feeders will be able to offer a bountiful buffet that birds can easily eat even in the harshest weather.

Getting Feeders Ready for Winter

The first step in protecting winter bird feeders is to be sure your feeders are ready to withstand the poor weather and drastic temperature changes the season will bring. As you prepare your yard for winter, make sure your feeders are ready by…

  • Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting all feeders.
  • Making any necessary repairs to each feeder.
  • Ensuring feeders hang securely or are securely fastened to poles.

While these simple steps can prepare your feeders for winter, more thorough preparations can help your feeders be the very best for your winter birds.

Ways to Protect Bird Feeders in Winter

Bird feeders need to be protected from excessive moisture in the winter to prevent seed from spoiling, and they need to be safe for wary winter birds to use. To protect your feeders and make them more attractive to winter birds…

  • Choose Winter Feeders: Opt for bird feeders that are suited to winter weather by choosing designs with a larger capacity and protected reservoirs to keep birdseed dry. Feeders that have built-in covers or underneath feeding stations are best, and it is important to avoid cloth netting Nyjer feeders for winter finches, as the cloth will hold moisture and cause seed to clump and spoil. Instead, opt for metal mesh feeders or tube feeders for Nyjer.

  • Cover Feeders: Adding large baffles or covers to feeders in the winter can keep snow and ice from accumulating on the feeder and will also give birds a more protected place to feed. Clear acrylic bowl-shaped baffles are popular for sheltering winter feeders, and many backyard birders improvise by creating feeder covers from old bowls, pie tins or other recycled materials.

  • Reposition Feeders: Moving bird feeders to sheltered locations in winter can help protect them from snow and ice and make them easier to refill. Hang feeders from thick tree limbs close to the tree's trunk, under the roof's eaves or under a covered patio, deck or gazebo. The closer the feeders are to the house, the easier they will be to keep filled even in poor weather.

  • Discourage Wildlife: Birds aren't the only animals hungry in winter, and bird feeders can attract squirrels, raccoons, deer and other wildlife looking for an easy meal. To discourage these visitors, take steps to squirrel-proof bird feeders and surround feeding areas with cages or fences to ward off other animals. Avoid excessive ground feeding that can attract pests, or consider an easier, alternative feeding station for winter wildlife separate from bird feeders.

Maintaining Winter Bird Feeders

Despite taking all the necessary steps to protect winter bird feeders, they will still accumulate snow and ice in the worst weather. This is exactly the time when backyard birds rely on feeders the most, and keeping the feeders useful is essential. To maintain winter bird feeders…

  • Clean off snow and ice after every storm, or during extended storms, to give birds easy access for feeding.

  • Refill feeders frequently with the best winter foods to provide a reliable, healthy food source for hungry winter birds.

  • Shovel or trample snow in ground feeding areas to allow juncos, doves and other ground-feeding birds easy access to food.

By taking steps to prepare feeders for winter, protect them in the harshest weather and keep them suitable for the birds all season long, backyard birders will enjoy the company of many different winter backyard birds that take advantage of the tasty buffet.

Photo – Winter Bird Feeders © Paul Simpson

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