Kansas City, Mo. – Those feathered visitors are hungry. Drought during the past two growing seasons reduced seed production in wildflowers, grasses and trees. Plus recent deep snows covered food that was available on the ground.
Usually filling backyard feeders is a matter of people enjoying watching Missouri’s colorful migrant and resident birds grab a snack. Nature normally produces all the food the birds need. But this winter, feeders are truly boosting wild birds, said Larry Rizzo, a natural history biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation.
“I think we can safely say supplemental feeding is helping right now,” Rizzo said. “Drought is somewhat of a factor, but anytime you get excessively deep snow or ice cover, food is hard to get to.”
Large birds, such as wild turkeys, can scratch through deep snow and find food, he said. But smaller birds, such as sparrows or bobwhite quail, cannot.
Melting snow will provide some badly needed moisture for wild plants and wildlife. But providing drinking water for wildlife near feeders will draw more birds for watching. Cold weather freezes available moisture. Heated watering systems are available at stores that sell bird-feeding supplies.
“One bird I always like to highlight regarding winter bird feeding is the Carolina wren,” Rizzo said. “Deep snow or ice flat out kills them. If you have that bird in your neighborhood, you will help them by feeding peanuts, suet mixtures or best of all, a peanut butter mix. They love that. Mix peanut butter with corn meal. It’s simple and cheap.”