Tips on Winter Bird Feeding

Tips on Winter Bird Feeding

Make the most of your bird feeders during the coldest months of the year with these easy winter bird feeding tips.

Winter Backyard Bird Species

Depending on your location and the landscape of your backyard, you could be visited by any of these backyard bird species during the winter months:

  • House finches
  • House sparrows
  • Tufted titmice
  • American goldfinches
  • Pine siskins
  • Downy woodpeckers
  • Common redpolls
  • Black-capped chickadees
  • Northern cardinals
  • Dark-eyed juncos

To attract a wide variety of birds in the winter, feeders will be most useful if they have a wide cover over feeding ports, perches and dispensing trays so the seed is not buried during snowfalls. Fly-through platform feeders are especially good designs for winter bird feeding.

Your bird feeders should be placed in sheltered locations out of the most severe winds. Placing feeders closer to the house will be effective and will help keep the birds visible for indoor birdwatching. At the same time, feeders should be placed near protective cover such as hedges or a brush pile to offer birds safety from predators.

Because natural food sources are scarce in the winter, more birds may be attracted to wildbird feeders. These feeders will need to be cleaned and sterilized regularly. Proper cleaning will minimize mold, mildew and other unhealthy conditions that could foster disease among backyard bird populations. When cleaning, discard soggy seed or seed encased in ice, and let the feeder dry before refilling if possible.

Foods for Birds in Winter

Most birds that visit backyards in snowy weather thrive on seeds, since insects and fruit are harder to find naturally during the winter. The best foods to offer birds in colder weather have a high fat or oil content that will provide abundant energy for winter survival. Nutritious winter foods for birds include:

  • Black oil sunflower seed
  • Hulled peanuts
  • Niger seed
  • Suet mixes with seeds, fruits and/or insects
  • Peanut butter
  • White millet seed

Many backyard birders prefer to use no-mess seed mixes such as hulled sunflower seeds in the winter to avoid several months’ of hull accumulation beneath feeders in the spring.

More Winter Bird Feeding Tips

  1. Clean off feeders, platforms and perches after each storm so seed is easily accessible.
  2. Leave fruit and berries on trees, hedges and bushes to provide a natural source of food throughout the winter.
  3. Add a heated birdbath to your backyard or place a safe heating element in a regular birdbath to provide birds with liquid water.
  4. Stamp or shovel snow around feeders to provide easier access to spilled seed for ground feeding birds.
  5. Leave nesting boxes and birdhouses up all year round to provide winter roosting sites.

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