“Feathered Friends in Focus: March Encounters and Ways to Support Wild Birds”

A Western Bluebird perches on a bare tree branch.

Although March 20th marks the official start of spring this year, many areas across the country are still experiencing winter weather conditions. This harsh weather is making it difficult for wild birds to find nourishing food sources to replenish their energy levels. Despite this struggle, many people wait until spring to fill their bird feeders. However, it is important to provide wild bird feeding year-round, especially during the winter months when birds need it the most. In order to alleviate the burden on wild birds during this brutal month, let’s explore some ways we can help.

A Red-Breasted Nuthatch scrounges for food on the snow-clad ground.

During the end of winter, when March is in full swing, insects become scarce and the shrubs that usually bear fruits, berries, and nuts are often buried under snow. These are essential components of a bird’s natural diet, making it difficult for them to find sustenance. Additionally, birds are expending a lot of energy migrating, constructing nests, and caring for their young, which exacerbates their depleted state. Those that brave the harsh winter months must persist in finding food to keep themselves warm and prepare for the upcoming spring season. Furthermore, the unpredictable weather patterns of March only add to the challenge for birds.

A Dark-Eyed Junco braces against the cold of a March snowstorm.

The erratic weather caused by climate change is making it difficult to forecast what kind of weather we can expect in the coming years, especially during the month of March. This uncertainty means that we may experience one last winter storm or none at all. Unfortunately, this unpredictability affects more than just humans. Wild birds also struggle to cope with the prolonged winter brought by March snow, which makes it harder for them to survive and thrive. To help these feathered creatures, we can provide them with high-energy foods by filling their feeders.

Two Eurasian Collared Doves feed at a bird feeder.

Did you know that some feathered friends take to the skies for an astonishing 16,000 miles during migration? That’s a hefty amount of flying, requiring eight hours of flight time daily for over two months! It’s no wonder these birds stock up on food before embarking on their journey, eating up to half of their body weight. It’s crucial that they consume the right foods to sustain them throughout this challenging period.
Whether you want to support birds preparing for a spring migration or replenishing their energy levels after a winter one, they need your assistance! One way to help is by filling your bird feeders with high-energy foods rich in fat and protein. Such bird foods include seed mixes with high-energy content, suet, and mealworms.
Another way to aid birds is to provide them with safe nesting places.

A Starling prepares to feed its young in a nest box.

During this time of year, there are several ways to assist nesting birds. Firstly, you can defer your garden spring cleaning and keep a portion of it untamed or provide a brush pile for birds that are looking to seek shelter or collect natural materials for their nests. You can also leave materials such as grass clippings and straw for building nests. The National Audubon Society can provide more information on which nesting materials are safe for birds. Additionally, you can install birdhouses and nest boxes in your outdoor space, but make sure they are positioned away from high traffic areas and elevated enough to protect them from predators. Lastly, ensure that your bird feeders and birdbaths are kept clean.

An American Goldfinch ponders a clean birdbath.

Feeding and hydrating wild birds throughout the year is an excellent practice that offers more benefits than drawbacks. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that unclean bird feeders and birdbaths can have severe consequences. To avoid the spread of diseases such as Salmonella, it is necessary to clean your bird feeders adequately. Ideally, one should conduct this activity at least once or twice a month, and it is best to clean the feeders before every refill. A three-to-one water-vinegar solution or a nine-to-one water-bleach solution works well for cleaning bird feeders. After cleaning, rinse and dry thoroughly before refilling. To maintain a clean and healthy environment for wild birds, birdbaths should also be kept clean and filled with fresh water. It is advisable to refresh the birdbath water every other day and clean it at least once a week using a water-vinegar solution. Therefore, you can feed wild birds year-round while maintaining a clean environment that is free from diseases.

A Blue Tit bird feeds at a suet bird feeder.

The recently published State of the Birds 2022 report brought to light some alarming facts – more than half of all bird species in the US are experiencing a decline in their population, with 70 species already on the brink of a critical tipping point. As responsible citizens, it is our duty to assist in reviving the dwindling bird population. One way we can do this is by providing food for wild birds, not just during a particular season, but all year round.

However, much like us humans, birds also require healthy and nutrient-rich food to thrive. Therefore, we need to steer clear of low-quality bird seed mixes that are loaded with filler ingredients, such as milo, which birds tend to discard, creating a messy situation under your feeders. Instead, it is important to opt for high-quality bird seed mixes that are rich in bird-favorite foods like black-oil sunflower seeds.

If you are new to backyard bird feeding, don’t fret. It’s easy to get started.

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