Spring is a fickle creature here in Minnesota. In March we had weather so beautiful that I felt like planting a garden (I know better, though) and many people already have their lake cabins open and ready for the season. Our migrating birds have also started to return.
Then yesterday we got snow and it has stayed.
Those poor little birds. They are sturdy creatures, but this weather does pose some challenges for them. Here are a few ways you can help your backyard birds through unexpected cold snaps.
1) Consistently fill your feeders.
Staying warm requires extra food so if you give your feathered friends a reliable source of nourishment they will fare better.
A pair of Purple Finches enjoy the seeds from a feeder.
2) Put out a variety of foods.
Bird seed, suet and meal worms are a good selection to cover your bases for a variety of birds. Learn about your birds' preferences and have that food available.
A Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker share suet.
3) Keep different birds' feeding habits in mind.
You may have some migrating birds right now that have their own needs, too. Do a little research to see what they would like.
Right now we have Yellow-rumped Warblers in our area. I've noticed that they prefer to find their food on the ground, so when I fill my feeders I purposely sprinkled seed on the ground. As a result, I have dozens of these cute warblers hopping around my yard.
A male Yellow-rumped Warbler searching for food.
4) Keep feeder ports clean of ice and snow.
Each morning and throughout the day, check your bird feeders for ice and snow. Clear it away so the birds can reach the food.
This American Goldfinch is all fluffed up, trying to stay warm.
5) Provide water.
You can purchase water warmers for bird baths, but if you don't have one handy, simply put out water regularly.
A Thrush explores the area looking for food.
6) Be ready for Hummingbirds and Orioles.
I've already seen one photo of an Oriole in Minneapolis/St. Paul so that means they are arriving in the north. Have your feeders out and be ready. Orioles love grape jelly, so you can start putting that out too.
I've had my feeders up for a couple weeks just in case, but with this cold weather they want to freeze. Bring your feeders in each night to keep them from freezing and breaking. Clear them off throughout the day as needed, too. Here's what one of my feeders looked like yesterday before I cleared it off:
Icicles accumulating on an Oriole feeder.
7) Protect the birds from your pets and predators.
Make sure your feeders are high enough to help the birds stay out of reach of other creatures looking for a meal.
A Mourning Dove settles in for a nap on a cold day.
My cat loves to hunt birds. When I see him camped out under my feeders I know it's time to step in. Yesterday I warmed a bowl of milk for him and he was too full and sleepy afterward to bother my birds. Today he got scraps of meat. Keeping him full gives the birds in my yard a chance to forage safely for food.
A Yellow-rumped Warbler looks for seeds on the ground.
This weather may not be ideal, but with these handy tips you will help your birds endure. Providing food for them right now could also earn you their trust and you might end up with more birds to enjoy throughout the year. Plus, you never know who might show up to dine in your yard.
This Wild Turkey strutted through the yard, covered in snow.
Consider it an opportunity, too, to spend a little extra time enjoying your birds. All the photos in this article were taken yesterday in my yard. The birds were so busy looking for food that they didn't care about my presence. I was able to quietly sit quite close to them and get photos that they'd normally be too shy to allow.
If you like watching birds, be sure to download my free printable Bird Watching Journal. It features a place to put photos or sketches of your birds, a section to record the date and location of each sighting and room to write notes about the highlights of each bird encounter.
I hope you've gotten some practical ideas that you can use to help the birds in your backyard. Take a little time today to fill your feeders and enjoy your feathered friends!