I’ve known Red-winged Blackbirds to return to NYC as early as Groundhog Day, February 2nd. I’ve not yet had a chance to check yet, but if they’re already back this year they will be sorely disappointed by the weather. Snow poses greater hardships on most birds than does cold weather – with internal body temperatures of up to 110 F and the ability to trap air within the feathers as insulation, non-migrants do just fine when temperatures drop. Snow, however, covers food and forces birds to expend a great deal of energy foraging.
Emergency Feeding Measures
If your bird feeders are inaccessible to you due to snow, there are still a few things you can do to help see neighborhood birds through the worst of it. Keep a few boards handy and toss these out on the snow to serve as “tables” – this will prevent the seed from sinking into the snow. In an emergency, even cardboard or old throw rugs will suffice.
Creating Snow-Free Feeding Sites
More permanent emergency feeding stations can be fashioned by nailing 2 sheets of wood together in the shape of a tent, or by attaching a wooden overhang to a fence or the side of your home.
Strategically planted evergreen trees and bushes also work well in keeping a bare patch of ground open.
Please be sure to check out our extensive line of bird and wildlife foods and feeders for other ideas as well.
Snowstorms have one bright side (for birders if not for birds!)…species that would rather avoid us are forced to use out feeders – or even to feed upon others that use our feeders! Please watch for Part II of this article for some winter hawk and owl observations.
Please see Hand Taming Wild Birds for some tips on a most enjoyable wintertime hobby.