Here’s how to make a winter house for birds

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It’s that time of year when we appreciate the feathered friends who stay close to home.

The cardinal landing on a snowy evergreen branch and creating a small explosion of soft powder is a Canadian sight to behold.

Now that our neighboring migrating birds (as well as some humans) have headed south, we are left with the hardiest of the true north. And how delicious!

It’s bird feeding season and now is the perfect time to clean and fill your bird feeders, acquire a bird bath heater and take this last planting opportunity to bring in some bird friendly plants. in your garden.

And speaking of your garden, let’s start with this:

1. Leave your ornamental grasses and herbaceous perennials upright and untrimmed. Seed heads provide a buffet for birds, especially when snow covers the ground and access to ground seeds is no longer an option.

2. Plant rowan, Native American cranberry, serviceberry, serviceberry, and crabapple. Many birds find fruit plants more attractive in the winter, when they are looking for quick energy and the fruit has ripened and softened.

3. Birds need shelter. Especially during the winter months when a cold wind blows. Their favorite havens for protection are the native black and white cedars. Birds find comfort here, foraging on seeds in winter and will often nest in cedars in spring.

Any evergreen foliage, moreover, offers protection to birds in winter. The spruce in which the Cardinals find refuge is just one example. Pine, fir, and junipers can all do the trick.

4. Birds Canada has a very useful website that solves the problem well by assigning “bird garden areas” Across the country. The Bird Garden Zone map divides Canada into 22 zones. Toronto is in zone 17.

There are many lists of plants available for each area, all native, known to attract birds. Click on the plant you like and learn about cultural information on size, shape and fruiting characteristics, its growing zone limits, preferred soil type and more. It’s convenient, fast and fun.

Consider hosting a birdathon this winter to participate in Project Feeder Watch and add your tally to the Birds Canada database.

We note that not all of the plants listed are easily found at a garden variety retailer. You may need to search online for suppliers, for example, of striped maple or fleshy hawthorn. And it can be another fun winter project if you are planning on doing spring plantings.

Feeding birds, in order to help them through the winter in good health, takes a little planning and thought. Our top tips:

Clean your bird feeders every two weeks with a mild soap solution. The disease manifests itself as wet and rotten seeds.

Birds need water – open water of any kind, provided it is clean, attracts a lot of birds. Ben leaves a bubbler in his pond during the winter. The birds jump to the edge of the ice and have a drink throughout the season. If you have a bird bath, use a bird bath heater to keep the water open.

Project Feeder Watch is a citizen science-based method for counting birds and registering them in the Birds Canada database. The “Watch” began on November 13 and runs all winter. So you have plenty of time to register on birdscanada.org.

Organize a birdathon. Gather friends in your neighborhood to observe, identify and study birds. Have fun, share experiences and knowledge, and watch your winter blend into the birding activity.

Mark and Ben Cullen are expert gardeners and contributors to The Star. Follow Mark on Twitter: @ MarkCullen4

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