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A feeder with high-calorie, high-fat offerings will be a boon for birds in winter.

Now that you have cleaned your birdfeeders, it’s time to think about preparing for winter. This is your opportunity to create a backyard winter refuge for the birds and for you.

Your food choices make it easier for birds to survive the winter months. Many nonmigratory birds change their diets to replace insects and vegetation. Providing high-calorie and high-fat food is important when temperatures drop.

Suet is a high-energy, pure fat substance that is invaluable in winter when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm. Additionally, peanuts have high protein and fat levels and are included in many seed blends or offered in a specialty feeder. For each seed feeder, we recommend one to two high-fat feeders.

For winter to attract a greater variety of birds, consider adding a ground feeder, an open tray feeder that is slightly elevated off the ground. With a quality blend high in millet, this will bring in the juncos and sparrows. Tempt robins and waxwings by adding fruit and mealworms for fruit- and insect-eating birds.

Feeders should be located out of the wind. Often this means closer to your house, which will be easier for filling and a greater opportunity for bird watching during the cold months. Place the feeders near vegetation, about 3 feet high, which allows birds a quick hiding space from predators. It is best to have a perching spot such as a bush or tree for the birds to use to survey the feeding area.

Keep birds dry while they dine. Add a dome cover to your feeders to keep off rain and snow. Not only will it give your birds some protection from the elements while they are eating, but it will also help keep your seed dry.

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Lastly, offer a reliable source of water for bathing and drinking. Birds need water in winter to help stay warm and to properly digest food. Taking this opportunity now to prepare for winter will offer many rewarding visits in the cold days ahead. Happy birdfeeding!

Kathy and her husband, John, own and operate Wild Birds Unlimited, located in Billings and at She is a certified birdfeeding specialist and is past president of the Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society.

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