Garden Topics:  Birds & Pets

What should I feed birds during the winter? 

Feeding Birds in WinterAs winter approaches, providing high calorie and high fat foods is important. Also be aware that many different species of birds visit during the winter so it is important to consider different food options.

Feeders should be located out of the wind. It is best to have a perching spot such as a bush or tree for the birds to use to survey the feeding area and provide sufficient cover for safe refuge from predators. The feeders should be positioned near cover, but in the open to allow birds to watch for danger. For ground feeding, a clear view of the surroundings is desirable.

Platform Feeder For BirdsPlacing seed in a ground feeder entices birds such as sparrows, juncos, doves, quail, towhees and thrashers. Even the Red-bellied Woodpecker, which is thought of as a tree dweller, does some foraging on the ground. Platform and hopper feeders are especially good for attracting cardinals, wrens, chickadees, titmice, jays, and grosbeaks. Hanging feeders, are generally used by those species that are able to hang on while feeding such as chickadees, titmice, nuthatches and finches.

Premium Bird Seed Mixes. These are packages of a mixture of bird seeds that are attractive to a variety of birds. Generally consisting of black oil sunflower, peanut, millet, striped sunflower, and others mixed together. The really cheap bags of mixed seed sold at large box and grocery stores often contain lesser desirable seeds that birds often discard. Smart consumers buy mixed seed from a garden center or at a specialty bird store.

Songbird Bird Feed - KayteeBird on Feeder in WinterThistle seed is a very tiny black seed. It does not come from our native thistle plant's but is imported from Ethiopia and India. It is sometimes referred to as "Nyjer" seed. It usually comes in smaller bags. Nyjer seed is one of the favorite foods of goldfinches, nuthatches, chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers, and other small birds.

Suet is a great food to offer many of the birds. It is a high energy, pure fat substance which is invaluable in winter when insects are harder to find and birds need many more calories to keep their bodies warm. Suet is particularly attractive to woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, jays, and starlings. Wrens, and even cardinals and some warblers occasionally visit suet feeders.

Birds with OrangesOil sunflower is a great overall seed to offer in the winter. It has a high calorie/ounce ratio due to its high fat and protein content and its relatively thin shell. Oil sunflower has twice the calories per pound than striped sunflower and its smaller shells make less mess when discarded by the birds. Sunflower seeds attract birds such as Black-capped Chickadees, Nuthatches, Juncos, Sparrows, Goldfinches, all there finches in general, Grosbeaks, Doves, Cardinals, Woodpeckers and Red-winged Blackbirds.

Peanuts are another great food to offer birds in the wintertime. Peanuts have high protein and fat levels and are often an ingredient in suet products. Peanuts and peanut chips make great food for chickadees, nuthatches, jays, cardinals, woodpeckers, creepers, sparrows, wrens and titmice, not to mention blackbirds and crows.

Fruit. There are some birds that are not interested in seeds, but attracting birds with fruit is another alternative. Birds such as the sapsuckers, mockingbirds, pileated woodpeckers, tanagers, thrushes, robins, waxwings (both cedar and bohemian), bluebirds, catbirds, jays, wrens, orioles, pine grosbeaks and the not so favorite starlings enjoy fruit. 

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