The Star-Herald

Caring for feathered friends in winter

Although many of our articles concentrate on the dogs and cats in our lives, I am also a fan of our “feathered friends.” I love watching the many birds that are attracted to our black oil seed feeder and suet.  My two indoor kitties, Willie and Annie, spend countless hours on the window seat, watching the parade of chickadees, nuthatches, buntings, blue jays, finches, grosbeaks and many more.

The past three months have been some of the longest, coldest and snowiest I can ever remember. Winter can be a particularly trying time for wildlife. Food becomes in short supply and water sources freeze over.  Sometimes I wonder how they manage to survive in the harsh, below-zero temperatures. I always make sure the feeders are full and always “spill” some for the doves and grosbeaks that are ground feeders. My good friends Rick and Annie always gift me with a year’s worth of suet at Christmas.

For birds, water is essential for drinking and for bathing — a year-round necessity to keep feathers in top flying and insulating shape. While animals will eat ice and snow, they benefit from a reliable source of water.

I have found, the easiest, most reliable way to keep water ice-free is to use a heat source. You can find birdbaths with built-in heating elements online or at your local garden center.  My heater will shut off when it gets up to 40 degrees F; that way you are not using up energy when the days are warmer (which I’m praying is soon).

Important safety tip:  Be sure your outdoor outlets are protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to cut off the electricity in case of a short.

However you provide water, remember that sanitation is important year-round. Locating water sources close to your house makes cleaning and maintenance much easier — and you won’t have to carry buckets of water far. Be sure the containers are regularly cleaned and replenished with fresh water to prevent the spread of disease.

Rinse a birdbath daily before refilling it, and clean it once a week using a solution of one part chlorine bleach to nine parts water and a scrub brush to loosen debris. Rinse again thoroughly before refilling with fresh water.

We hope that if you are interested in adopting, you will stop by the Central Aroostook Humane Society and check out the wonderful pets that are just waiting for that “forever home.” We are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., closing for lunch 12 to 12:30.

Check us out on Facebook for all the latest happenings. Please be responsible: spay and neuter your pets.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Aroostook Humane Society.

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