With the heavy snows seen in February across the state, but especially the southern part of Minnesota, pheasants, bobwhite quail and many songbirds are now struggling. In fact, any that have survived are likely weakened and in need of a little help to stay alive until the south-facing slopes can
melt a bit and expose some basic food sources.
Here’s a very simple thing you can do to help these upland birds out right now. I’d suggest striving to jump on this task before the coming weekend, if possible. Waiting another week is likely to be deadly for many of these birds.
Whether you have a snowmobile or 4-wheeler (or even a farm tractor), use the weight and wheels of your vehicle to flatten and pack down the snow. Going back and forth until the snow is well-packed (2-3 times), create these paths of packed snow along the edge of your woodlands, especially where you have performed edge-feathering, or have some very dense stands of shrubs where a canopy has been created (a place for birds to get out of the snow or get away from the deep snow). If you have a stand of balsams or conifers with low-hanging branches creating such a canopy, use your snowmobile/AVT/tractor along these areas.
Pack down that snow and make an area for easy walking for these upland birds. I wouldn’t bother to do so out on the open, away from woodland edge feather or conifers. These hungry birds won’t want to burn calories by flying too far to explore and they won’t want to be in the open because the aerial predators are just as hungry as they are. So, keep your track-making near the edge of your woods or conifers.
Next, take 2-3 (or more) 50-pound bags of cracked corn and spread out directly onto these packed areas directly behind your track-making vehicle. 50-pound bags of corn will go for only $5-6 dollars at Menard’s or your local co-op. I personally love Menard’s for birdseed selection and the birdseed sales they seem to regularly be running. If you can find a good deal on black-oil sunflower seeds (a good deal means under $15 for a 50-pound bag), also put these out with the corn. The corn helps as they really need the carbohydrates right now, but the sunflower seeds are loaded with important protein that these birds need to thrive. Carbs will help them survive, but the protein will help them think clearly and make sound food-finding decisions.
I’d suggest putting out at least 100 pounds of corn/sunflower seeds every 10 days until the snow has melted enough that they have spots to access the ground, where they can find natural seeds and a bit of frozen clover (great protein source). Hey, if the deer and turkey find your bird food first, just remember they will be helping you advertise the location of food and will cause any pheasants or quail to become curious enough to check it out. They really need to be able to find what you’ve done for them!
A little help goes a long way!!!
If you aren’t aware, the Southeast Minnesota chapter of Quail Forever will be having its annual fundraising banquet on Saturday, March 30, in Caledonia, MN. If you would like to learn more, click the link below to access details and our event registration form.