It’s really hard to think of wild birds as being loyal friends. After all, they are truly one of the freest creatures on the planet, able to fly anywhere at anytime with nothing to bind them to any single location.
But birds, like humans, are creatures of habit, and bird banding studies have shown that many of our winter birds, such as juncos and native sparrows, utilize the same wintering location year after year. With a potential lifespan of over 10 years, it is likely that the junco gleaning millet or sunflowers off the ground below one of your feeders has spent many previous winters as your loyal backyard guest. And recent research shows that is only half the story!
These birds are not only loyal to a specific location, but also to a single feeder! This is why it takes birds awhile to adjust to new feeders in your yard. These studies also showed that once birds were accustomed to a specific feeder in a given location, the only time they abandoned their favorite feeder was during periods of cold weather when the feeder was placed in a location too exposed to the wind. So you can help protect your birds from the elements by locating your feeders in a sheltered location out of the wind. The east or southeast side of a house or near a row of trees, especially evergreens, is ideal.
Once you have them in a safe and sheltered location, be sure to keep your feeders filled with the high-energy, high-fat foods that provide your birds with the crucial nutrition they need to survive the coldest months of the year. Sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, suet, suet nuggets, peanuts, and tree nuts are all good winter choices, depending on the species of birds that frequent your yard.
Offering a source of open water, like a heated birdbath, in the area near your feeders will provide an added attraction for your birds. Birds need water for drinking and bathing, even in cold weather.
By providing a constant source of food and water, along with nearby shelter, you will help your birds stay loyal and warm.