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WINTER ROOSTING COVER FOR AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES

        With cold weather lurking just around the corner, the thoughts of many backyard wildlife enthusiasts have turned to providing winter roosting sites for their backyard bird neighbors.  As such, some are winterizing nesting boxes or erecting roosting boxes.  These measures help birds that roost in cavities such residents as Carolina chickadees, brown-headed nuthatches, and eastern bluebirds.  However, little thought is given to providing winter roosts for birds that do not use natural or manmade cavities as nighttime roosts. 

       The truth of the matter is most backyards such as sparrows, finches, robins, mockingbirds, cardinals, doves, and a host of others roost in vegetation.  One such bird is the American goldfinch. 

       The American goldfinch roosts in dense vegetation. The birds often roost among the needles of conifers.  When they cannot locate such a roost site and are forced to spend the night in an open spot, their risk of succumbing to the cold dramatically increases.  In fact, when they roost in thick leafy vegetation, they can use one-third less energy to survive a frigid night than they would if they roosted in a more exposed spot.  The energy saved can mean the difference between life and death.

       Do you have any thick shrubs or trees in your yard that goldfinches and other birds could roost for a winter roost site this winter?  

DON’T FORGET COVER!

       One of the things that you will find that I often mention in this blog is that all wildlife need food, water, and cover to survive.  However, often seems we homeowners tend to overlook the importance of cover.  This is unfortunate as an argument can be made that it is perhaps the most important element of all.  Perhaps this is so because many folks do not understand what constitutes cover.

       As far a backyard birds are concerned, cover refers to places where animals can find shelter from harsh weather, escape from predators, nest, feed, and roost.

       At this time of year, providing backyard birds with winter cover is extremely important.

       In winter, birds must routinely cope with low temperatures (often subfreezing), bitter winds, rain, ice, and snow.  The need for this type of cover is especially acute at night when they go to roost.  As such, birds simply cannot survive without areas where they can escape the ravages of the harshest season of the year.

       Trees and shrubs that do not lose their leaves in winter provide many birds with a safe refuge during these trying times.  All of these cover plants have tick foliage.  Two native woody plants that best provide birds with this invaluable type of cover are wax myrtle and eastern red cedar.  Both plants are hardy and easy to grow.

       With that in mind, if you want to make sure that your feathered neighbors have places to roost on frigid winter nights, as well as throughout the rest of the year, make sure your have provided them with plants that are blanketed with thick foliage.

       If you are going address this need with shrubs, plant them in bunches—don’t set out a leafy shrub as a standalone plant.  Birds seem to prefer large patches of cover.

       If you adopt this simple suggestion, you might be pleasantly surprised just how many birds will benefit from your thoughtfulness.

Eastern Red Cedar trees

       Eastern Red Cedar trees