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Amanda Wheeler | How to keep visiting birds comfortable this winter

Now that the weather is getting colder, birds are migrating south for the winter. But while some of our summertime residents are moving south, other birds are coming to spend the winter in Kentucky.

It’s a great time to see some species that you might not get to see during the warmer months. You can get out and hike in a park or preserve to try and spot some of them, or you can make your yard inviting to these avian migrants and get them to come to you.

Here are some ways you can show some southern hospitality to our feathered friends who will call KY home for a little while.

Make a brush pile. It’s great for birds all year round to have a safe space to hide, but even more so in the winter so they can also stay out of the wind and snow. You can take sticks laying around your yard to make your brush pile, just put larger sticks on the bottom and smaller ones on the top. This is also a good way to keep your yard clear.

You can rake your leaves into piles around trees and bushes. Bugs will be attracted to these leaf piles, and this is great news for hungry birds. The birds get a great meal and you don’t have to dispose of your leaves. 

Put out bird seed. Make sure that you stock your bird feeders and that the bird seed is dry. Birds can survive without people feeding them. But studies have shown that if a bird has access to a feeder, its survival rate increases. 

Plant bushes that will provide food for birds during the winter. Bushes like viburnums have berries that often persist into the winter, providing extra food for birds.

Create a windbreak — something permanent and stout enough that it blocks wind — or find a windbreak in your yard. When placing a bird feeder in your yard, you want to make sure it’s located near a windbreak where the birds can find shelter. Near bushes or trees is great. You also want to make sure that it’s in a place that won’t easily be covered in snow, and is sheltered some from the harsh wind. You can plant bushes and trees to help create a windbreak for the birds. Sometimes your house or shed can also be a good windbreak.

Get your birdhouse ready for winter. Birdhouses in the spring need different things than in the winter. In the spring, birds build nests to lay eggs; in the winter they need a place to stay warm and rest. To get your birdhouse ready for the cold temps, you can put hay or grass in to help insulate it. You can also block the ventilation holes and move the birdhouse where it will get the most sunlight, to help keep the inside warmer.

Mix up your bird foods. You can put seeds in a feeder for lots of birds, but some birds prefer to eat seeds on the ground, and still others prefer to eat suet blocks. Provide a variety of bird feed options so you can attract the most birds.

Make sure to find time to enjoy the birds this winter, and help them out with a little food if you can.

Many can make it through the winter without help, but it’s nice to make things a little nicer for the birds, especially since they make things so much nicer for us.