Ask the expert

Wisconsin State Farmer
Snow didn't bother the robins who descended on this berry tree.

Q: I continue to receive many questions about robins overwintering in Wisconsin and what types of tasty treats we can feed them.

A: Robins are largely fruit eaters during the winter season so providing fruit in some form is one of the best ways to feed them. Cranberries, raisins, grapes, suet with fruit pieces, melons and melon rinds are all great choices. Robins are attracted to berries and crab apples, so include some of these in your backyard landscaping. Meal worms are another great choice for wintering robins.

Q: How can I force branches to bud and bloom indoors?

A: An easy method to force buds and blooms on flowering shrubs and trees indoors is to place them into a vase or container of warm water and cover with a plastic bag, checking every few days. They'll bud out pretty quickly once you bring them indoors, so be sure to check often. Some may already be ready to produce a show for you, while others may take several weeks before they should be cut.

Q: How can I attract owls to my yard?

A: Owls are not as easily attracted as songbirds, but they may make an appearance in wooded yards or yards with appropriate trees available to them. One of the best ways to attract owls is to provide nesting platforms or boxes, depending upon the species. Eastern screech owls may visit your nest boxes, as they are cavity nesters. Great horned owls may discover your platform and nest or roost there. These nest boxes and platforms are often specifically designed for these birds, so should be purchased from a reliable bird supply store or built according to specifications you can find online.