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Tag Archives: Feeding Wild Birds

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Feeding Wild Birds during Snowstorms – Tips and Stories – Part 1

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.  Read More »

Freeze Dried Mealworms – a Healthy, Convenient Food for Wild and Pet Birds

As I write this from NYC it is not yet officially winter, but I’m looking out over waist-high snow drifts.  So I’m inspired to consider a special treat for the visitors to my bird feeders, and one which finches, softbills and other pets relish as well – mealworms.

The Importance of Insects

A bag of Freeze Dried Mealworms is a very useful item for both pet keepers and wild bird enthusiasts to have on hand.  Providing both calcium and much-needed protein, insects continue to figure in the diets of many birds even during the coldest months.  Although not visible to us, insects are always about – some species hibernate, while others pass the winter as eggs or pupae.  These are avidly sought by many typical feeder visitors, but especially Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Blue Jays and Juncos.  Insects become especially important in late winter, when female birds need to increase their calcium stores in preparation for egg-laying.
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Grit, Calcium, Salt and Water – Wild Bird Feeding “Extras” – Part 1

While any food provided to wild birds is beneficial, there are a few items that are very important to their health, especially in the winter, but which are often over-looked by well-meaning avian enthusiasts.


Pigeons, Doves and many other birds must swallow small stones, sand and similar materials (“grit”) in order to break down seed coats and other foods before digestion can take place.  Grit is often in short supply during the winter, being either covered with snow or frozen to the ground (in NYC, I’ve observed English sparrows on buildings, pecking at gravel within brick mortar).

You can help winter birds along by providing pet bird gravel, sand and oyster shell (available at garden supply shops) in snow-free locations.  It is best to keep grit separated from food, as it will be used slowly and may become contaminated with feces if it lies out too long.


Calcium is especially important as winter turns to spring, since female birds utilize this mineral to produce egg shells.  However, insects, the main source of calcium for many species, are often scarce at this time of the year.  Our Wild Bird Mealworms will be most appreciated by nearly every bird that visits your feeder.  You can also supply calcium by mixing oyster shell and ground-up eggshells into your wild bird food.

Food and Shelter

Of course, food and shelter are important concerns year-round.  Please be sure to check out our extensive line of bird and wildlife foods, houses and feeders.

Next time we’ll cover a few additional winter-feeding essentials.


Further Reading

Winter is a great time to try your luck at hand-feeding wild birds.  Please see Hand Taming Wild Birds for more details.

Woodpeckers, chickadees and other acrobatic birds will put on quite a show if given the chance – please check out Feeding Woodpeckers and Other Avian Athletes for details.


Feeding Wild Birds during the Spring and Summer – Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for information on feeding winter residents, hummingbirds, and other summer visitors.  Today we’ll take a look at bird baths, birding opportunities and luring bats and other small mammals.

Birding Opportunities

Warm weather bird-feeding usually results in spectacular bird watching opportunities…driven to catch hundreds of insects daily, raise several broods and keep themselves fed as well, parent birds are far less cautious than at other times of the year.

Give our Audubon Bird Call Whistle  a try.  My first, received from my grandfather nearly half a decade ago, drew the attention of nearly every furred and feathered visitor to my childhood feeders.  The Backyard Bird Tracker  will help you to identify the birds you see and provides interesting life history details and a place for recording your observations.

Other Steps You Can Take

Setting out bird baths within easy reach of your feeders will increase visitation, including by bird species that might not be interested in the foods you provide.  For example, robins, which in most areas are earthworm specialists, will readily make use of bird baths.

A well-thought out garden (please see below) will encourage reluctant feeder-visitors to remain and forage upon insects, buds and other treats.

Mammals: Flying Squirrels, Gray Squirrels and Bats

Don’t forget your mammalian friends.  Gray squirrels newly emerged from the nest are clumsy and even more entertaining than are adults.  By providing squirrel feeders, corn logs  and peanuts, you can limit competition with avian visitors and provide yourself with quite a show.

If flying squirrels are resident in your area, by all means install some indirect lighting and take a look at your feeders after dark.  These adorable, nocturnal acrobats are quite fearless feeder users…trust me, you will not regret the effort.  Resident even in the heart of NYC, flying squirrels do not reveal themselves in the daytime.  A call to your local zoo or nature center should provide you with information concerning local populations.

While we’re on nocturnal mammals, let me not forget some of my favorites, the bats.  I have rehabilitated a number of injured bats, and never tire of watching their nighttime hunting forays.  A surprising variety of species inhabits the USA, even within most cities…try putting up a bat house and see what happens.

Further Reading

For information on planting a garden that will both attract wild visitors and provide nutritious food for your pets, please see my article Gardening for Birds.

A unique video showing northern flying squirrels using a backyard feeder is posted at:



Oriole Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Badjoby.

Dendroica petechia image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Mdf.  

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