Winter’s not over for feathered friends

Winter bird source StockSnapDear Paws: Please tell your readers to remember to keep their bird feeders full in cold weather. Use high energy food or suet if possible. When the ground and plants are covered with heavy snow, it’s very difficult for birds to find enough to fill their stomach with food. I have two feeders that I’m filling twice per day, and I keep suet out at all times. During warmer weather I only need to fill twice per week. “My” birds are very happy and full! — D. Oswald, Palmyra, N.Y.

Dear D: You told them! Even though we’re turning a corner into spring, in much of the country—especially after this difficult winter—snow will cover the ground well into March and perhaps beyond.

Birds that do not migrate but “winter over” have put up with the snow and ice just as we humans did. But food is likely hard to find, particularly in this transition period when wintertime sources of food have been depleted. Keeping a backyard feeder filled with bird seed is helpful, while suet—basically, beef fat—gives birds extra energy and nutrients.

Place suet about five feet off the ground and close to a tree trunk. Special feeders are available, but many homeowners just place it on an upright skewer, or even rub it onto the tree trunks. Raw suet can be set out throughout the winter and colder spring months, but experts advise against putting it out in warm weather because it not only turns rancid but also melts, creating a risk of coating a bird’s feathers, which makes flight difficult. Warm-weather brands of suet are available, however. On a side note, avoid putting out bacon drippings for the birds: the preservatives used in commercially prepared bacon can be bad for their long-term health. (And ours, but that’s another story.)

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Originally published by King Features Weekly Service, March 3, 2014.