By Evan Dalton

As fall migration tapers and gardens yield their last harvestable goods for the season, your yard enters a new—but equally enjoyable and vital—time of year. Birds are looking for additional food sources as shrubs and trees stop producing much-needed fruits during the winter months. While cold weather may tempt you to stay indoors, there are several tasks you can do now to make your yard a winter paradise for local wildlife.

Feeding: Food for birds becomes scarce towards the end of fall. When their spring diet of insects is no longer an option and the berries of late summer and fall disappear, many wild birds switch to another high-energy food: seeds. If you have the appropriate space for one, a bird-feeding station can provide your local birds with a source of food throughout the winter. It is important to remember four key things when setting up a winter bird-feeding station:

  • Keep it clean – Since many individual birds are visiting the same feeder, there is an elevated risk of disease spread. You can help prevent this by making sure the feeders are clean. Check at least once a week, clean off any bird poop, and remove any seed that may have gotten wet or moldy.
  • Don’t stop once you start – Although wild birds rarely depend upon bird feeders for survival, keeping your feeders full at all times means that the food is available for them if they should need it. It also means that you’ll see birds at your feeders more often.
  • Provide cover – A bird feeder in the middle of a field will not attract many birds. That is because any bird visiting that feeder will be exposing itself to predators in order to eat. Make sure you place your feeder(s) near some form of cover, like an evergreen shrub, low-hanging tree, or thicket.
  • Maintain distance – Be mindful of where you position your feeding station. Fallen seed and refuse from your feeders will likely attract mice and other unwanted visitors, so keeping feeders a fair distance from your house or shed will help prevent a possible invasion.

There are several types of feeders and seed, so choose what works best for you and your yard. The more types of food you offer, the more types of birds you’ll see. You can find a variety of feeders and seed types at your local specialty store.