February is National Bird Feeding Month . . . Now that we are in the throes of winter, and the coldest month of the year is upon us, it is a good time to assess how the birds are doing. This time of year, is especially difficult for them. If given a little assistance, their chances of survival are greatly increased.
One of the easiest things to provide, and high on the list of needs, is water, adding a heater or deicer coil to an existing birdbath. Just be sure to keep the birdbath clean.
Providing shelter is another way to help. The use of birdhouses and nesting boxes has helped many species make a comeback. Landscaping that provides shelter can also be a great help. Evergreen trees and shrubs provide a welcome resting place out of the wind, snow or rain. Birds gather in groups toward the inside and huddle together to create more warmth.
The final piece of the puzzle is providing food. Particularly here in Missouri, winter is a difficult time for the bird species that have chosen to overwinter here. There is little to no vegetation, and most of the insects are dead or dormant.
Now is an excellent time to purchase a feeder if you do not already have one. Most songbirds feed on insects and spiders during the spring and summer; however, the nonmigratory species switch to fruit and seeds in the fall and winter.
Black oil sunflower seeds are preferred by the largest number of bird species. Be sure to scatter some seed on the ground and beneath trees and shrubs for birds that prefer to feed in these locations.
High-energy food, like suet and peanut butter, are an added benefit for all birds and provide much needed fat. So, with this information, I hope now you will enjoy the antics of our feathered friends.
It is also time to think about starting any garden and flower seeds in the house that you may want to grow this year. The choices are many. Our last frost date is around May 1st, so back up the weeks on the calendar for seed starting so you know when the best time for planting in the house would be.
Ample light is very important for this task. Botanical Interest is a wonderful line of garden seeds that offers health and recipe information along with growing information on the packets.
Until next month . . .
This monthly column is written by Sandi Hillermann McDonald of Hillermann Nursery & Florist, Washington.