Now that nesting season is over and temperatures are dipping quite a bit, it’s time to pack up your bird supplies until next spring, right? Not exactly.

Winter is filled with long, cold days and can be a tough time for many bird species. By winterizing your birdhouses, you can make it easier for your local birds to find a safe and warm place to stay until spring.

First and foremost, clean out any and all debris left from the summer. You will then want to sanitize the birdhouse to remove any mites or bacteria left from the previous resident. To sanitize, scrub the house with a solution of 1-part bleach to 9-parts water. Rinse well and leave it open to dry completely.

Next, repair any damages made and unclog drainage holes. By repairing the birdhouse, you will not only make it more secure for the winter but you will also extend its life.

Another way to make the birdhouse more desirable is to flip the front panel upside down, which moves the entrance hole to the bottom half of the front rather than the top (some birdhouse panels do not flip). By doing this, it reduces the risk of a heavy draft.

Now it is time to insulate the house. Use a layer of natural materials such as hay, dried grass, or sawdust to cover the bottom and be sure to clog any ventilation holes to reduce cold air intake.

During nesting season, birds like a roomy area. In the winter the opposite is true as they prefer smaller spaces so the birds can huddle together.

An easy solution is to lay twigs or small branches across the inside. If you’re the handy type, you can drill holes in the side of the house and insert a dowel that you can also remove when spring arrives.

Once you have properly prepared your birdhouse for winter, it is time to find the perfect placement. Try to place the house facing away from the wind where it can get plenty of afternoon sun. You may also want to consider placing the birdhouse higher up to protect it from predators.

What about your bird bath? Now that winter is coming, do you really need to keep it out?

While a conventional bird bath will freeze too quickly to use, try a heated bird bath!

Many people are under the impression that heated bird baths are harmful to birds because it causes them to freeze after bathing. This, however, is just a myth. Heated bird baths keeps the water liquid for birds to drink so they don't use precious calories melting snow to stay hydrated. A healthy bird will not immerse themselves when the air temperature is cold enough to freeze. Birds are also well insulated to survive cold weather even if their feathers were to get damp.

Winter is an important time to feed birds. Unlike the warmer months, birds have a much harder and exhausting time scouring for food when there is snow on the ground and most vegetation is gone.

If you are just getting started in bird feeding, or if you are struggling to find food that winter birds want, the first thing you need to determine is whether you are feeding the right foods. If you are not giving the birds what they want, you might not have many birds. A few of the most common bird food for the winter months include:

• Black-oil sunflower seed is one of the most popular types of bird seeds. Almost any bird that will visit a bird feeder will eat black-oil sunflower seeds.

• Suet. For birds in winter, fat is an excellent source of energy. Commercial suet blocks are available wherever birdseed is sold.

• Good mixed seed. Good mixed seed has a large amount of black-oil sunflower seed, cracked corn, white proso millet, and perhaps some peanut chips, sunflower hearts, and dried fruit.

By following these few tips, you will surely make the winter much easier on your feathered friends!


Bridget Kackos is an intern at Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County.