Many migratory species have arrived this year to widespread snow and frozen ground. This has impacted their ability to locate food sources to meet their natural diet requirements. Species like robins and woodcock eat very specific food which makes it harder to offer things they might eat. We’ve been getting many questions about whether to offer food or not as it is a controversial topic, so we opted to pass on some advice so that food offered is at least the sort they might appreciate. Although it can be helpful to temporarily feed these birds, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Try and place just enough food outside to last the day. Placing food outside your home MAY attract other hungry scavengers.
Apples can be cut in half or chopped and the skin should be left on to aid in identification of the apples.
Do not feed spoiled / mouldy foods.
Robins will eat fruit such as cranberries, halved grapes, blueberries, diced apple, soaked raisins etc. They also like mealworms and red wigglers.
Woodcock will generally only consume worms and insects, so they may go for mealworms, earthworms and red wigglers. These can often be purchased at fishing supply stores and pet supply retailers. Their feeding behaviour and food choices are very particular though, so they may not take to any food items offered by people.
Remember that grapes can cause harm to dogs, so feed in a location where dogs will not be able to consume.
Not all robins are starving. Some areas offer plenty of berries and fruit still remaining on the trees from last year. Leftover crab apples, sumac berries and chokecherries can provide a decent meal to a hungry robin. Woodcock on the other hand mainly consume worms and insects.
Clearing snow in your yard can potentially help develop bare ground areas and provide a feeding zone.
Planting natural food sources on your property will ensure a food supply for the future. Holly bushes, crab apple trees, sumacs and other fruit bearing shrubs and bushes are always a wintertime favourite for hungry birds.
If you notice a migratory bird on the ground appearing lethargic, observe it from a distance and avoid causing it any undue stress. If you continue to be concerned about this bird, please contact a wildlife rehabilitation centre or wildlife officials.