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Discover Nature: Bird Feeding Stations

A male northern flicker perched on tree trunk next to suet feeder. Bird has vibrant yellow streaks on tail; red patch at back of head; brow-gray-tan body with black-white spots.
A male northern flicker feeds 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.

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