Feeding your backyard birds through the winter will offer you many hours of birdwatching enjoyment throughout the next few months of snow and cold. Feeding those birds a trio of black sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds and suet will attract a wide variety of birds for your viewing pleasure, but only if escape cover is nearby. Trees and shrubs provide that necessary cover to protect the birds from a variety of predators, including hawks and cats.
Be wary of purchasing bird feed made of mixed seeds because most of the weight or bulk of the package will be comprised of less desired or palatable seeds that often are left behind and then become a source of mold that may imperil the birds coming to your feeders. Please do not put out your table scraps as they will likely attract nuisance species (such as House Sparrows, Common Grackles and European Starlings) and any moldy or spoiled food will likely harm the visitors you are hoping to attract.
Sunflower seeds will attract many species, including cardinals, grosbeaks, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, jays, sparrows, and finches, particularly if the feeder has a tray or platform on which larger birds, such as the Northern Cardinal, can perch on while feeding. Smaller birds, such as the Black-capped Chickadee, will likely retrieve the seeds through the wire mesh and flit away to eat the kernel inside the shell.
A wide variety of suets are available in your pet food stores and many are blended to attract certain species over others. However, any suet is likely to attract a number of species since it is a high-energy food for all birds in the winter.
You should consider installing a baffle with each feeder to repel squirrels. Like any animal, gray squirrels and red squirrels are opportunistic feeders; it will not occur to either that the banquet you have prepared is meant for birds, not them. Alternatively, you may want to use squirrel-proof bird feeders. However, such feeders rely upon a spring-loaded feed tray that prevents a squirrel’s access to feed when it climbs upon the tray. And, when precipitation freezes, that will likely result in the feeder tray becoming “locked” in either an open or closed position for extended periods of time.
A great bird book to use to help identify who is visiting your feeders is “Birds of Eastern and Central North America,” by Roger Tory Peterson (one of the series of Peterson Field Guides). If you want to learn the songs of those birds, please visit my Links page to hear recordings from Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter; otherwise, you may want to obtain “The Backyard Birdsong Guide,” by Donald Kroodsma. This book has a built-in audio player with excellent quality recordings of many songs and chirps of many species of birds found in Eastern and Central North America.
Winter bird feeding tips:
- Ten Simple Tips for Successful Winter Bird Feeding
- Top Ten Foods for Winter Bird Feeding
- Winter Bird Feeding and another article on Winter Bird Feeding
- Five Best Bird Feeders for Winter
- Choosing Bird Seed
- A Guide to Bird Feeding (including winter feeding)
- Bird Feeding Basics (including winter feeding)
- What Can You Do About Squirrels?
- Ten Ways to Outwit Squirrels Raiding Your Bird Feeders
Make-your-own winter bird feeders and squirrel-repelling baffles:
- Cold-fashioned Winter Fun: Feed the Birds
- Winter Pinecone Bird Feeder
- How to Make Winter Suet Bird Feeders
- Soda Bottle Bird Feeder
- How to Make a Winter Homemade Bird Feeder
- How to Build a Winter Bird Feeder
- Homemade Squirrel Baffle for Bird Feeders or Bird Houses
- How to Make a Squirrel and Raccoon Bird Feeder Baffle
- (How to Make a) Bird Feeder Squirrel Baffle
Make-your-own winter bird food recipes:
- Make Your Own Bird Food
- Bird Food Recipes: Winter
- Bird Food Recipe: Suet
- Winter Bird Food Recipes
- Bird Feeding Tips for the Urban Yard
- Homemade Bird Feed Treats
View more info about winter bird feeding.
To enhance your birdwatching experience, it is best to view your feathered visitors through a good pair of binoculars; I have 8×42 binoculars and they work great for observing birds at my feeders.