Happy New Year everyone.
What a snowy winter wonderland this early time was! Heavy snowfalls, freezing rains, winds and even more snow are creating difficult times not only for us but also for the wildlife that lives there.
I am reminded of this every morning when I fill the bird feeder with water. Chickadees and nuthatches are already waiting for breakfast in a nearby tree while brushing off a new layer of snow. So would I? What do birds do when their feeders run out of nutritious black oil sunflower seeds? Or when they forget to put them in their feeders?
First, our winter resident birds are well adapted to winter conditions, so even if feeders are empty or absent at all, where do wild birds find food and how do they get it? I know exactly what
Birds often hide food. Watch what the birds do with the feeder. They don’t all sit in feeders and consume the seeds. swallow the seed) hide it somewhere later.
Many years ago, one winter day, I saw well over 100 birds alight in a crabapple grove. At first I didn’t know what species they were and what they were doing. Were they just resting? Hiding from something? Or were they feeding?
The bird was the Bohemian Waxwing, a famous winter resident of Minnesota. This species was a voracious fruit eater, and all of them furiously ate the remaining small apples stuck to the branches.
So how important are crabapples to wintering birds such as waxwings? Very important indeed.
Indeed, the importance of crabapples to wintering waxwings was very evident when I observed their forage. Birds and animals that make a living are always looking for food.
In fact, one of the main reasons most summer resident birds leave in the first place is food, or lack thereof.
The question is, what should birders do when environmental conditions and food availability become unfavorable for birds? No worms or insects. Just lots of snow, dormant plants, leafless trees and a barren landscape.
Is there anything else I can do to attract birds to my backyard besides putting seeds and suet in feeders?
For example, consider our bird friend, the waxwing. Besides insects, these species also eat berries and other fruits, nuts and seeds.
Sumac, grapes, cedar, cranberries, mountain ash, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, service berries and nannyberries are just a few of the many plant foods many birds seek out and consume.
For this very reason, it is always a great idea to plant fruit-bearing trees and shrubs on your property that will retain their fruit throughout the winter.
When the insects are dormant and the worms are well below the frost line, their shriveled crabapples, mountain ash fruits and nannyberries are important food sources for waxwings and pine grosbeaks. In addition, the fruits that cannot be eaten in winter become valuable food for robins and other birds that return in spring.
To give a field example, during my tenure as manager of the Audubon Society shelter near Warren, one of the management activities I performed at the shelter was to plant trees and shrubs that would bear fruit and nuts. . These activities were an integral part of the reserve’s mission to enhance wildlife habitat.
Crabapples, chokecherries, plums, wild grapes, highbush cranberries and elderberries are just a few of the varieties planted there. Other important food-producing trees and shrubs include dogwood, sumac, cotonehis aster, raspberry, service berry, and Nanjing cherry.
Such plantings not only provide an ideal food source for birds and other animals, but are also important wildlife refuges. Most homeowners, as well as city planners, can easily provide their backyards and boulevards with the trees and shrubs that generate these important masts.
A good reference that is worth a small fee is the book Landscaping for Wildlife, published by the Minnesota DNR. This book contains a wealth of information for anyone wishing to enhance their property for the benefit of wildlife.
Simple and inexpensive conservation activities can be applied to urban and rural backyard corners, city streets, parks, golf courses, and more. Wildlife appreciates your efforts when we get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.
Blane Klemek is a wildlife manager for the Minnesota DNR.he can be reached at
window.fbAsyncInit = function() FB.init(
appId : '880572159243904',
xfbml : true, version : 'v2.9' ); ;
(function(d, s, id) var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s); if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); (document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));
Leave a Reply