Select Page

As we plow through winter (or walk through it as it were with our limited snow fall so far), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has word on things some people do to help wildlife–that aren’t all that helpful. Here they are (from their post):

Avoid: String, twine, yarn, dryer lint and pet hair

Providing lint and yarn in a suet cage can be hazardous to birds. Staged photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

String, twine and yarn can get wrapped around the legs and necks of birds and nestlings, cutting off circulation and often resulting in death. Stringy items can also become a choking hazard if mistaken for food. Never offer dryer lint as it could contain chemicals that are harmful to birds. Pet hair may also be dangerous due to chemicals from flea treatments and shampoos.

Provide: Natural, chemical free materials

It’s important to remember that birds are well adapted and get by just fine without human intervention. If you want to help provide nesting materials, focus on things birds would naturally find. You can gather twigs, leaves, seeds, mosses, lichens and untreated grass clippings. These nesting materials can be piled on the ground or placed in clean suet cages. Learn more about safely providing nesting materials.

A blue-gray gnatcatcher adds material to its nest. Photo courtesy of Skip Russell/Creative Commons.

Avoid: Bread and sugar sponges

Bread and sugar sponges can quickly introduce harmful bacteria and mold, causing respiratory issues and disease, sometimes resulting in death. Birds easily fill up on bread, leaving little room for the more nutritious foods they need. Just like people, animals can suffer from metabolic bone disease if they don’t get the proper nutrients. Even with treatment, this disease is often irreversible. In the wild, animals may starve to death or be unable to escape predators.

Provide: Natural, nutritious foods

It’s easy to provide the high nutrition foods that animals need. The best way to provide food for butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators is to plant a garden with a wide variety of native plants that bloom from early spring through late fall. Many of these same plants provide late fall to early winter seeds for a variety of birds. You can also add and properly maintain a hummingbird feeder for added nectar. Different types of seed and food will attract different bird species throughout the year. Learn about which birds benefit from specific food types within your area and the type of feeder most likely to attract the species you’d like to see. Follow these bird feeding tips to attract a wide variety of birds and ensure you’re feeding them safely.

Left: A white-breasted nuthatch visits a feeder to collect seeds. Right: A monarch butterfly sips nectar from a native swamp milkweed plant. Photos by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

Avoid: Adding salt to bird baths

Salt can be toxic to birds, sometimes resulting in death in less than an hour. Birds may experience reduced reaction time and lose the ability to perch or fly. Salt water can also be dangerous to deer, squirrels and any other creatures that may be looking for a drink. The effects of salt are particularly dangerous in the winter when animals are less hydrated and fresh drinking water is difficult to find.

Provide: Heated bird baths

If you want to ensure that wintering birds have fresh water available, install a heated bird bath or add a heated rock to your existing bird bath. Shallow baths with areas to perch are ideal for providing easy access to drinking water. Keep in mind that birds won’t bathe when it’s chilly, but fresh drinking water is essential!

Heated bird bath at Fort Snelling State Park in Minnesota. Photo by Courtney Celley/USFWS.

Adapted from content provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Original content here:

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service.

Looking for more content from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? You can connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For multimedia, check out their videos on YouTube and download photos on Flickr.

Malcare WordPress Security