The Winter Need to Feed
Birds seek out yards that offer food, water and cover, and they thrive in those that offer safety from harmful pesticides, chemicals, predators and other dangers in our human-dominated world.
With freezing weather, limited natural food sources, and migration, feeding will save birds’ lives. 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. Giordano’s carries what birds like most:
With the right seed and feeder you could be visited by dozens of different backyard bird species during the winter months. The most common winter birds in our area include:
- House finches
- House sparrows
- Tufted titmice
- American goldfinches
- Pine siskins
- Downy woodpeckers
- Black-capped chickadees
- Northern cardinals
- Dark-eyed juncos
- American robins
While easy birdfeeders such as hopper and platform designs are always popular, the feeders you use during the winter should have several characteristics in common.
- Cover: Feeders will be most useful in the winter if they have a wide cover over feeding ports, perches and dispensing trays so seed is not buried during snowfalls or storms. Fly-through platform feeders are especially good designs for winter bird feeding. The cover should extend several inches over the edge of the feeder to ensure protection from all but the most serious storms.
- Placement: Ideally, winter birdfeeders 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. To minimize window collisions, place feeders no more than five feet away from a wall or window, and use window clings or other techniques to prevent collisions.
- Capacity: For birders’ convenience, large capacity feeders are preferred for winter feeding because they do not need to be refilled as frequently. This is only viable, however, if the seed is protected from moisture, otherwise it may grow mold before it is consumed. Covered feeders with large capacities are suitable, but platform feeders should be emptied and refilled daily to prevent mildew and spoilage.
More Winter Feeding Tips for Birds
- Clean off feeders, platforms and perches after each storm so seed is easily accessible.
- Leave fruit and berries on trees, hedges and bushes to provide a natural source of food throughout the winter.
- Add a heated birdbath to your backyard or place a safe heating element in a regular birdbath to provide birds with liquid water.
- Stamp or shovel snow around feeders to provide easier access to spilled seed for ground feeding birds.
- Leave nesting boxes and birdhouses up all year round to provide winter roosting sites.
With care and consideration, backyard birding can be an exhilarating hobby throughout the winter, with birdsong and backyard visits to brighten the coldest, darkest days of the season.