There are many wonderful holiday gifts for birders, from magazines to new field guides to other birding supplies, but sometimes the most important part birding is nearly forgotten: the birds themselves. Many birders come to see their backyard flocks as part of their families as they watch them year after year, and there are some fun and practical gifts you can give your backyard birds to keep them happy, healthy and coming back every holiday season.
Take the time, even in the coldest winter weather, to carefully clean and disinfect your bird feeders. Birds gather together in larger flocks in the winter, giving diseases and parasites many more opportunities to spread. By cleaning feeders, you reduce the risk of spreading diseases and can keep your backyard flock healthy and strong. Keeping the feeders snow-free will also help birds feed more easily even in the worst weather.
Birds need extra energy and calories during the winter to keep warm and healthy, and they can get that energy best from higher quality birdseed. Choose the best winter bird foods such as Nyjer or black oil sunflower seed, as both those seeds have high oil contents, and choose seed blends that avoid fillers and other wasted material. For an extra holiday treat, make birdseed ornaments for a festive feeding touch.
All birds need water, particularly in the winter when many natural water sources are frozen and inaccessible. Choosing a heated bird bath or extra heater accessory for your existing bird bath will provide liquid water for the birds, so they do not need to spend as many precious calories on melting snow or ice. Furthermore, having water available in your yard year round will attract a wider range of birds, giving you an extra treat.
Outdoor, feral and wild cats kill millions of birds each year, but you can do many things to protect your backyard birds from cats. Create sheltered spaces for the birds to hide securely, fix hedges or fences where cats may be entering your yard and keep your own cats indoors to ensure your birds are protected. A donation to your local animal shelter can also help spay and neuter cats so there are fewer cats to threaten your birds.
5. Full Feeders
The holidays are a time of special foods and family meals, but don’t forget your bird family when you fill the table. Keep your feeders filled and offer a range of different foods, including seed, suet and kitchen scraps to sate hungry appetites. For even more dining options, plant fruit and berry plants in your yard to provide natural food sources the birds can enjoy.
Winter bird shelters such as a bird roost box are a welcome retreat from harsh winter weather, storms and dropping temperatures. Choose a safe roost box that can accommodate many small birds to help them survive the chill, or opt for a convertible box that will also serve as a nesting box in the spring. Brush piles and discarded Christmas trees are also great shelter to keep birds warm on winter nights.
7. Safe Windows
Give your backyard birds safe windows so they can find open flight paths when fleeing hawks and other predators. Predators become more aggressive in the winter when small animals and other foods are less abundant, and it’s not uncommon to see a hawk buzzing a backyard feeding station. If you take steps to prevent bird window collisions, you can ensure your birds stay safe without your windows being a danger.
Giving your backyard birds a new bird feeder for the holidays opens up new dining options for them to enjoy. Not only will a new feeder keep seed dry and fresh better than a worn feeder, but an extra feeder will reduce competition and aggression from birds and allow more individuals to feed easily.
Spring may be a few months away, but it’s never too early to give your backyard birds a great place to raise a family. A new bird house can be installed in the winter for birds to become accustomed to before nesting season begins, and some birds may even use it as an impromptu roost box to stay warm. If you already have bird houses, clean them out and be sure you have nesting material on hand to tempt birds to stay in your yard in the spring.
10. Safe Habitat
Habitat loss is one of the leading threats to birds, and while you may wish that your backyard birds considered your small space their only home, the truth is that even small birds need large territories to be healthy and productive. Contribute to a local nature preserve to help conserve the habitat that your backyard birds use when they’re not visiting your feeders.