When it comes down to the basics, songbirds are no different than any other animal. They need food, water and shelter to live. The better the provision of these elements, the more time they stay in a certain area such as your acreage.
Food – A wide variety of bird food choices are available, some specific to certain species such as niger for finches and suet for woodpeckers and others such as black oil sunflower and safflower more general in nature. In Nebraska, most bird feeding aficionados use sunflower seed cautiously as it tends to draw in blackbirds and grackles, which dominate feeding stations and drive off desirable species. They key to feeding in winter is to keep feeders full so that birds can identify them as a consistent source of food when natural sources are covered with ice and snow or have been depleted.
Water – Just as food can be limiting for wild birds, so can water…in fact, commonly more so. Unfrozen water sources are scarce in a Nebraska winter. Providing a clean, reliable watering station will greatly increase the odds of attracting birds in winter. Now, there’s clean and there’s clean; bird baths don’t need to meet human drinking standards. After all, they drink out of mud holes in much of the year. A good scrubbing with a stiff brush every other day and a fresh refill will suffice.
Shelter – A small spot to get out of the wind and away from predators is crucial to the survival of songbirds in winter. In a natural setting, plum thickets and native evergreen stands serve this function quite well. Most acreages are well equipped with good shelter features, especially ones with windbreaks and habitat plantings. If none are present, spending a little time with pen and paper now will pay off in the long run, both in terms of redirection of snow load as well as shelter provision. In the meantime, simply placing a Christmas tree near the feeder will provide a temporary, but important refuge.
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