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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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The Roving Sportsman… Winter Feeding of Wildlife

In December, when Mother Nature decided to dump several feet of snow, then, shortly thereafter, several inches of rain throughout the region, she did no great favor for any of our wildlife. The rain compressed the snow below, then, with overnight freezing temperatures, managed to seal off things below with a layer of ice. In

In December, when Mother Nature decided to dump several feet of snow, then, shortly thereafter, several inches of rain throughout the region, she did no great favor for any of our wildlife. The rain compressed the snow below, then, with overnight freezing temperatures, managed to seal off things below with a layer of ice. In many areas, that icy layer persists and prevents all forms of birds and animals from accessing any possible food underneath it. With that in mind, let’s look at what we can do to help some of our furry or feathered friends make it through the toughest of the weeks ahead.

For the various birds that do not head south for the winter months, there is a pretty easy solution to help them make it through the wintery days ahead. Bird feeders of various designs can supply needed nutrition to these winter residents. The real question, if you are just getting started in winter bird feeding, is what to feed.

Black-oil sunflower seed is one of the best selections to include in any seed mix since almost any bird that will visit a bird feeder will eat these seeds. The outer shell is much thinner than other sunflower seeds and the seed itself tends to be larger, thus the birds get more food value per seed with the black-oil sunflower seeds. Those birds that cannot crack the hull will land below the feeder and scour the area for bits and pieces of the seed that are dropped by other birds.

Offering a mix of seeds is always a good idea since it will appeal to a wider variety of birds. But, be careful as some inexpensive seed mixes do contain “filler” seeds – junk seeds that most birds won’t eat. It might be better to concoct your own mix of seeds. Safflower seeds – white, thin-shelled conical seeds – are eaten by many different birds and are known to be a favorite of the northern cardinal. Cracked corn is always a good addition to your seed mix since it is appealing to most birds that will visit a feeder. Don’t forget to include the black-oil sunflower seeds. If you are not sure just what to include, contact a local feed store that has a variety of products for winter feeding.

If pesky squirrels become a problem, you might solve the situation by offering them their own supply of corn. Merely drive spikes through a board and attach the board to the side of a nearby tree – then stick ears of corn on the spikes. Hopefully, this will lure the squirrels away from the bird feeder.

Turkeys, deer and bears spend a great deal of time feeding during the later months of fall, frequently on acorns when they are plentiful, in order to build up a much needed layer of fat to aid in making it through the cold of winter, when food may be scarce. In the dead of winter, you might see deer or turkeys in picked-over corn fields pawing or scratching through the snow in search of any remaining kernels of corn. Shelled corn is a popular choice of feed to put out for deer or turkeys.

Caution: CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) is a disease that is only beginning to show itself in Pennsylvania. It is spread from one deer to the next when they are in close proximity to one another. Thus, if you are putting corn out, it would be better to scatter it over a large area rather than just place it in a single pile or two.

Providing a mixture of minerals now will begin to benefit the deer as they gain stronger bones and will provide better milk production for the does in the spring. This long term offering of the minerals is of great benefit throughout the year, but don’t forget – all minerals and residue must be taken up 30 days prior to any appropriate hunting season.

The annual statewide flintlock deer season has just ended and the final archery deer season is set to end on Saturday, the 23rd, after which it is legal to put out feed for deer and other game.

This winter offering of feed can be a fun activity and provide some great viewing opportunities. It will also be of great benefit to birds and animals as long as snow and ice continue to limit their usual food sources.

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