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Discover Nature: Bird Feeding Stations

Eastern bluebirds feed at a suet feeder, one perched on feeder, one hovering below with blue wings spread wide.
Eastern bluebirds feed at a suet feeder in winter. In colder weather, birds need more food to keep up with increased metabolism, making this a great time of year to set-up bird feeding stations and enjoy watching feathered friends.

This week on Discover Nature, set up bird-feeding stations to help keep feathered friends fed through the cold season.


To keep warm in frigid weather, birds must feed almost constantly. A drop of twenty degrees can double their metabolic rate. So, keeping food available can be especially important, and rewarding for birdwatchers when the weather turns cold. 

Feeding stations can be as simple as scattering some seeds on the ground, but more complex approaches can include any combination of covered, enclosed, and elevated feeders. Black, oil-type sunflower seeds and white millet rate best for attracting a wide variety of birds. 

Water and cover are equally important. A complete feeding program includes establishing native trees, shrubs, and plants that produce food and provide cover. 

Birds need places to perch overnight and vantage points from which they may not only view the feeder, but also watch for potential predators. 

Birds lack teeth and need grit in their gizzards to grind up their food. During prolonged periods of ice or snow cover, provide coarse sand or ground shells along with the seed.  

Learn more about bird feeding and bird identification with the Missouri Department of Conservation. 

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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