Feeding and watching wild birds is fun and can mean the difference between life and death for the birds. Most of the time, birds fend for themselves quite nicely, but they do benefit from your help during winter and other times when food is scarce or they are migrating through your hometown.
Most wild birds will partake of your kindness and extra effort to help them prosper. Consider helping the birds in the following ways, and make a difference in their fragile lives.
Make Your Own Suet
There are countless recipes for suet, with basic ingredients being lard or beef fat. From there, add oatmeal, peanut butter, berries or other fruit pieces, sunflower seeds, millet or cornmeal. Complete recipes for suet cakes can be helpful for beginners wanting to make sure they get the right proportions of ingredients.
Recycle Beef Fat for Suet
Woodpeckers are grateful for plain beef fat if you have no time to make suet. The best beef fat is the type found around beef heart. If you or a friend raw feeds beef heart to cats or dogs, this is the perfect fat for your suet feeders. Cut off a chunk of fat and place in your suet cage.
Offer a Water Source
Any shallow container around the house serves as a ground level birdbath. Keep it full and clean and the birds will thank you for their daily drink or bath. If the season is particularly dry, the importance of a birdbath for drinking or bathing can't be understated. Birds can live without food longer than without water.
Offer Nest Building Materials
Get creative about leaving items out for birds to gather for nest building. Brush your dog and put the collected hair in shrubs. Birds will gather it for nest insulating. Dryer lint serves the same purpose. Birds pull out dead grass from your lawn to strengthen the "framework" of their nest. So, leave a patch of your spring lawn wild, just for the birds.
Recycle Egg Shells
Rinse, dry, bake and pulverize egg shells for extra calcium during brooding season. You can sprinkle in a dry area on your lawn, offer it in a small cup, or add to your suet blocks. Experiment to see which form your birds like best. Calcium is important for egg shell integrity, and thus the continuing of the species.
Garden Seeds are a food source and habitat for birds in the winter. Any plant with a multi-seed head is capable of providing food for the birds. If you also offer seed via feeders, a garden is one more feeding option for birds who might be timid about visiting a feeder. Gardens are a great place to hide when bigger birds start to bully the little ones.
Help for Migrating Birds
Many birds are seasonal migrators and depend upon people to keep feeders and baths stocked along their route. Think of birds traveling from the northern United States into Central America and it becomes clear how much a food and water source means to their survival. Don't worry about your kindness keeping birds from making the journey to a warmer climate. Birds that are physically able to migrate do make the trip. Your feeders, and those in the next state, insure birds are able to keep up their strength as they migrate.
With a bit of your planning and ingenuity, wild birds can survive during the winter and until spring's bounty of seeds and insects offers more feeding options.