Bird feeding is a fun and exciting hobby. It doesn’t take a great expense to get started, and almost anyone can do it. Our MUTTS Manifesto reminds us this month to be present. Bird feeding is a wonderful way to make a connection with nature and to enjoy seeing these small and beautiful creatures up close.

In the winter months, however, putting out food and fresh water for birds can make a real difference in their lives when their main sources of food are covered in snow or ice.

Here’s a guide to what you’ll need to get started building your own bird restaurant, along with some tips from our MUTTS Winter Diaries “More to Explore” section:

A bird feeder. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but do make sure it’s in an area that’s well-protected from cats and other predators. Make sure it’s always clean and easily accessible and gives birds plenty of room to fly. Post more than one around your yard and see what different types of birds you attract.

Food. The National Wildlife Federation recommends black oil sunflower seeds as “a favorite of just about every seed-eating species.” Or give suet to provide extra energy to woodpeckers and smaller birds. Whatever kind of food you provide, make sure that it’s always clean and free from mold and mildew, and in the case of suet, that it doesn’t go rancid once it gets warm.

Keep them full. Now that you’ve started the feeder and attracted the birds, don’t stop! You’re teaching the local birds that your yard is a safe place to find food. Make sure you are consistent and don’t let your feeders go empty, now that birds are depending on you for sustenance. If you’ll be away, ask a neighbor to fill them for you.

Water. Even in winter, when there can be lots of snow on the ground, birds need a clean, unfrozen water source to bathe in. “For birds and other wildlife, water is just as important in the cold months as it is during summer,” says NWF Naturalist David Mizejewski. Instead of making birds use up body heat to use snow to clean themselves and for drinking, provide fresh water in a basin that is away from predators and allows them easy access.

Just for fun. Once your feeder has attracted a bevy of feathered friends, visit to begin to identify who’s been visiting. You can specify location, color, size, and even note whether or not you’ve seen it at a feeder. It’s fun to keep track of your recent visitors and note when a newcomer’s been by on a migratory pitstop. Use the internet to check out bird calls too.

Do you feed the birds in your neighborhood? Let us know on the MUTTS website or on our Facebook page. And to make sure you don’t miss out on any MUTTS news, sign up for our Daily MUTTS email on the homepage.

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