While much of the wildlife we enjoy during the warmer months has left us, there are still some critters around during the winter. Red fox, raccoon, and gray squirrels are all active throughout the winter in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC. Lots of birds also stick around all year long, including house wrens, sparrows, finches, and cardinals that are visible from your windows.
Many homeowners enjoy caring for our winter wildlife. Providing nourishment and fresh water for birds and backyard mammals is a rewarding task that’s easy to accomplish. Birds and squirrels are prevalent in the mid-Atlantic, even in urban areas. Not only are they easy to provide for in the winter, but providing food and water will attract a wider variety of birds during the winter months.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says many birds change their feeding habits as winter approaches. Those who depended mainly on insects may start to eat berries to supplement their diets. They will start looking for reliable food sources during the winter months.
If you feed birds during the winter it is important to provide high calorie and high fat foods. Black oil sunflower seed is a great overall seed to offer in the winter. It is high in fat and protein content and has twice the calories per pound than striped sunflower seeds. They will attract a wide range of hungry birds, and can be offered in platform, tube or hopper feeders. For a close-up view, purchase a window bird feeder that mounts to your window with suction cups.
For high calories, suet is one of the best foods to offer birds. While many homeowners avoid suet because it will melt in warmer weather, it is a perfect winter food. It is also easy to make your own custom suet blends specialized for your backyard flock. Peanuts are also another great option for birds (and squirrels) in the winter.
You can make your own bird food, especially fun if you can get your children or grandchildren involved. Tie string or yarn to the tops of pine cones for hanging. Smear the pine cones with peanut butter, then simply hang on a tree and watch the birds feast. Many birds also enjoy fruit. You can place dried or fresh fruit and berries on a platform feeder.
Squirrels prepare for winter throughout the fall by gathering and burying nuts and acorns in the ground near their tree dens or nests. But providing squirrels with additional food throughout the winter months can help ensure they receive all the nutrition they need. Squirrel favorites include corn, peanuts, and sunflower seeds. You can mount full cobs of dried corn on nails and watch the squirrels feed. Cob feeders can be purchased, but it’s simple to make your own with a board and large nails.
One thing that’s important to remember: when you start feeding any wildlife in the winter, you will be taking on responsibility for them. They will come to depend on you since natural food is limited in the winter. Be sure to continue providing food until the spring.