Eco Tip: Ways to Help Birds Get Through the Winter

Marsha Low, Weavers Way Environment Committee

Bird populations are in decline all over the world. In North America, numbers have declined by 29% since 1970. Birds face a number of threats, including loss of habitat, herbicide and insecticide use and climate change. But there are things we can do in our own backyards to help our feathered friends.

Putting out bird seed (especially in the winter months when food is scarce), providing clean water, and providing birdboxes in which birds can raise their young are all helpful. So are removing grass and planting native shrubs and flowers that provide seeds and attract insects. (Cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, swallows and titmice are just some of the birds you may see in your backyard that eat insects.)

If you had birds nesting in boxes this summer, leave the nesting material in them until early next spring, because they may take shelter in them during winter storms. Leave seed heads (for example, those of black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, Joe Pye weed, ornamental grasses, sedum and coreopsis) for them to feed on during the winter. Also, encourage growth of the insect population by leaving leaves and dead plant stems in your beds over the winter; insects need them to survive.

Insect populations have plummeted in recent years, and if they do not rebound, birds will be in even more trouble, so help them out. It’s a win-win: Less work for you, more food for the birds!