Cold winter weather has moved in. That makes life tougher for birds. You can give them a hand with the gifts of water and food.

Clean, open water is vital to birds in winter. Not only do they drink it but they bathe in it too. Dirty feathers can't keep their bodies warm. Clean feathers can be properly spread to retain heat. If you have a bird bath, clean and fill it. They'll use it on warm days. Go one step further and add a heater and they'll use it as a hot tub. If you don't have a free-standing birdbath, simple portable units are available--with heaters--to fasten on deck or patio railings.

Most birds that overwinter in Colorado are seed eaters. There are many wild bird seed mixtures available, even at your local supermarket. To supplement this high carb diet, you can also provide suet that contains proteins and fat.

A fun project is to add a thin wire to a pine cone and coat it with peanut butter or a peanut-based suet spread. Hang the pine cone ornaments from trees or stretches of strong fishing line. Although squirrels can balance on thin telephone lines, even they can't balance on fishing line or fine wire. "Tree Icing" is a brand of spreadable peanut butter suet that can be spread on pine cones or directly on tree bark.

Seeds and suet can also be protected from squirrels by treating it with cayenne pepper or powder. Squirrels dislike the hot pepper but the birds are not affected by it. Some seed mixtures and suet are already treated with cayenne pepper.

Positioning a birdbath or feeder near a window is the best way to enjoy the birds as they bathe and eat. They're an essential part of a healthy garden and ecosystem.