Birds of Winter
Birds of Winter

When you fill your bird feeders and put fresh water in the birdbath this season, you are giving your feathered friends a helping hand. But you could also be serving the greater good!

Take note of the birds that visit your yard, and you’ll be ready to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), Feb. 17-20, when thousands of people around the world will record information about the species of birds they see.

The information backyard bird watchers gather assists scientists in better understanding the movement of species around the globe, how well different species are — or aren’t — doing and how factors like climate change are affecting bird populations everywhere.

“We enjoy bird watching and feeding birds because they brighten our backyards and entertain us with their antics, especially during long winters,” says Richard Cole, co-founder of Cole’s Wild Bird Products. “But birds also play an important role in maintaining environmental balance around the world. They pollinate plants, scatter seeds so new plants can grow, help control insect populations and recycle nutrients back into the soil. It’s critical for us to have a greater understanding of how bird species are doing around the world, and to do our part to help take care of them.”

What You Can Do

You can support bird populations year-round by making your backyard an oasis for birds. A few simple steps can get you started:

• Offer a variety of feeders; different species prefer different styles.

Tube feeders are versatile and appeal to a wide range of bird species. They can also handle large (think sunflower) or small seeds (like petite mixes) equally well.

Some birds prefer to cling to feeders while dining, rather than perch, so use a versatile mesh feeder; or try a bowl feeder, perfect for serving suet in kibble form, dried mealworms and fresh fruit. Be sure to keep all feeders clean and in good condition to help prevent disease and injury.

• Serve a variety of bird feed.

In winter, seeds with a high fat or oil content are best for birds, so offer black oil sunflower seeds, niger, raw peanuts and suet.

• Be sure to also offer birds plenty of fresh water; it can be very difficult for them to find unfrozen water sources in winter.

By feeding backyard birds and participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count, you can be counted on to help protect the well-being of wild bird populations. What’s more, the work you do prepping your yard for the count will benefit you — and your feathered friends — throughout the year.

For more information about bird feed and how to attract birds to your yard, visit