In these cold winter months, a lot of us like to help out our backyard birds by putting out bird feed and suet. The intention is to help them stay fed as their resources in the wild become limited. While well-intended, one thing that we may naturally overlook is providing them water and grit. These are also two essential items to their survival and are something that they may have difficulty finding on their own on these cold snowy days.
The most basic question you may be asking yourself is "what is grit and why is it important for our feathered friends?" Grit is just tiny pieces of rock - think of it like fine gravel. These tiny invaluable minerals help birds break down and digest food. Birds will store grit in their gizzards where it works with the organ to break down hard-to-digest foods. This in turn helps them keep on the calories. As you can imagine it takes quite a lot of energy flying around all day!
In the spring and summer, you can see birds grabbing grit from all over - from the Prarie Path to a parking lot. However, when we have these frozen, snowy days they can find it difficult to come across this key element to their digestion. That is why we add grit to our Barn Owl Banquet Bird Seed Blend. This blend allows the birds to have access to the grit if they need it, or you could provide a small dish of grit to have near your feeding area.
An often overlooked item for a winter feeding station is a heated water source.
This can be a birdbath heater or simply a water heater in a dish. Cold winters make it difficult for birds to access a water source for drinking or bathing, so putting out a heated water source is very helpful to them. They get drinkable, non-frozen, water and increased their chances of survival through the winter.
Making grit and water easily accessible to the birds in your yard, you can greatly increase the presence of a wide variety of birds who stick around during our winter months. More importantly you can also help these populations survive the winter. After all, that is a huge reason a lot of us feed the birds during this time.