Uncommon Winter Visitors in your Backyard?

Uncommon Winter Visitors in your Backyard?

Here in Manitoba, one of our volunteers Suzanne has been watching an American Robin eating snow for the past month.  Normally, these birds should have migrated south, but for some reason, a few robins will spend their winter in Winterpeg (aka Winnipeg).  We do get a few phones during the winter on what could we feed these uncommon visitors.  We always recommend berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, saskatoons) cut up in bite size pieces, soaked raisins are enjoyed by some, suet crumbled and can be mixed with the berries, mealworms & crickets (freeze dried), and even soaked dry cat food.  Try placing on a white- ice cream pale lid, as this will help the bird find the food.  Always put out a small amount so you can see the bottom. You can always add more during the day and sometimes a large amount can be overwhelming to some birds.  Sometimes these birds won’t touch the food you’re putting out for it.  They must be finding another source of food, more appetizing than your plate.  Many of the native berry trees have this year’s season frozen on the branches (mountain ash, choke cherry, crab apple).   Another thing you can do to help our feathered friends is building a shelter box.  A wooden box closed on three sides, with a roof and base, not much higher than the bird and wide enough to possibly have two or three birds huddled inside for warmth.  Last thing you can provide your friend is a source of water. There are heated bird baths out on the market. Heated dog dishes could also work.  I just like to warn those who live in my climate (today’s temperature minus 43 degrees Celsius with the windchill) to place a wire grid over the water to prevent the birds from taking a bath in this weather.  You would assume they should know better but in past years, I have had a flock of Starlings frozen like Popsicle sticks as they bathed in -30.  Fortunately, the home owner was home and saw these birds on the ground unable to move.  If this does happen to you, bring the birds indoors in a cardboard box and allow them to dry off before releasing them back outside.  They need to be completely dry otherwise they can get chilled again.  This can take hours before setting them free.  If you place a wire mesh over the water dish, they can still drink the water, but not take a bath. If you would like to know how the robin is doing, you can follow Suzanne’s weekly reports on the website: Have you spotted any uncommon migratory birds staying for the winter?  Let us know and send a picture if you can.

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1 Comment

  1. Joanne Melnyk

    Yes, I have a pair of Robins still here, hopping in the yard, foraging for food. I keep fresh water out from spring and as long as possible into the autumn/winter, thawing the dish and refilling.
    I am concerned for these beauties and will use what I can to help them survive our Winnipeg winter.
    Your article was very helpful. Thank you!

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