Birds in Winter: Forage & Habitat.

As the cold of winter settlewhitethroated-sparrows in, we enjoy spending time at our windows, drinking tea and watching the birds go about their days.  Their resilience in the face of these temperatures never fails to amaze us!  But, winter is definitely a hard time of year for our little feathered friends.  As habitat diminishes, there are fewer trees and shrubs providing shelter, and especially food, in the form of persistent berries and seeds.  However, you can help!  Even if you are not disposed towards maintaining a birdfeeder, there are many beautiful plants you can grow in your yard to create more habitat and food sources for winter birds.  Some of these include hawthorne, crabapples, staghorn sumac, and native viburnums, such as nannyberry and black haw.
All of these plants have the addedOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA benefit of being edible for humans as well! Many overlooked, unused spaces in our farms, gardens, and alleys can be easily improved with some of the above species, and beyond, to promote a healthier habitat for wildlife, which, in turn, fosters the health of our cultivated gardens.
For further reading, check out this article in Grist about the importance of hedgerows on farms for winter birds, and the reciprocal benefit these birds have on farm health.
Hedgerows are a great example of edge habitat- a mix of diverse plants found in the transition zone between different ecotypes, often used in permaculture.  Edge habitats are usually the most productive and plentiful spaces in which to find and grow food, so we try to cultivate edges in our gardens, farmspaces, and urban crannies.  Where is your nearest hedgerow?
Happy birding!
Here’s a fun bonus: Can you name the three Virginia winter birds we’ve pictured here in the comments below?
By Soizic Ziegler and Kelly Morikowa

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