One of the most delightful sights in winter is watching the many varieties of birds in my backyard. It’s rather easy to attract birds, especially in the colder months, if you properly meet the needs of these fine feathered friends. Read on to learn how to attract birds in winter and pick up some other useful tips.
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How to Attract Birds in Winter
Scarce food, extreme temperatures, and fierce winds and storms all add up to devastating conditions for wild winter birds. Although many species are used to these harsh conditions, they still are susceptible to starvation and death. In fact, the highest mortality rate for birds is during the winter. For all those who enjoy caring for and observing birds, providing these beauties with the correct environment will reward you with many hours and days of enjoyment.
Start preparing your yard for the winter months early in the fall to attract a variety of wild birds. Plant native evergreen and deciduous trees along with shrubs throughout your yard. They will provide shelter, protection and food.
Evergreen trees are a cozy haven for birds sheltering from the cold winds. If you have a live Christmas tree, rather than placing it on the curb for pickup why not prop it up outside to provide a landing perch for your winter visitors?
Shrubs with berries such as junipers, winterberry, and beautyberry offer a different cuisine for birds. The Eastern Bluebird, Sharp Tailed Grouse and Cedarwing in particular enjoy these types of berries.
Trees such as Hawthorns, Crabapples, and Hollys (Purchase from Plants Express) with countless berries provide an abundance of food for winter birds.
Leaving leaf litter in your yard will furnish the birds with warmth and protect them from predators.
In addition to the trees and bushes you have in your yard, supply some of the following bird seed (Sold on Amazon) in different feeding containers. The more variety you have, the better to attract a large, diverse, group of birds.
Below is a list of cold-weather cuisine.
High in Oil and Fat:
- black oil sunflower seeds
- hulled peanuts or peanut hearts
- suet mixes with seed or fruit
- peanut butter
- thistle seed (Found on Amazon)
- white millet seed
A good place to purchase these seeds is at your local Agway store or even a supermarket.
If you live on a migration path for hummingbirds, refer to What Flowers Attract Hummingbirds.
One unique way for feeding the winter birds is coating pine cones in peanut butter and seed and then hanging them on a tree limb.
Suet containers filled with protein packed suet provide much needed oils and fats for the birds to maintain body weight and heat. It is a high energy fat substance that all birds need in the winter. However, offer the proper suet for your location. There are specific suet blends for cold temperatures and warm temperatures. Once the weather turns warmer, throw out your suet because it will go rancid and moldy.
Try making your own suet.
Edible birdhouses (Amazon) are another unique way to feed your birds.
Like humans, birds need water to survive. The berries provide fluids for their diet, however, a heated bird bath would be welcomed by winter birds, especially if there is no snow on the ground.
Heated birdbaths (Found on Amazon) have an internal heating element controlled by an automatic internal temperature gauge. It turns on if the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. It turns off when the temperature rises above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
The heated birdbath is not harmful to birds, however it could be dangerous for the birds to take baths if the temperature dips into the single digits or below.
Always keep the water level high so the internal heater does not malfunction.
Change the water frequently to keep it fresh and clean and prevent diseases.
Supply your backyard with the appropriate shelter to protect your birds from fierce north winds (in the northern hemisphere) or fierce south winds (in the southern hemisphere). Birds also need to be sheltered from snow, hail, and sleet.
Some shelters include bird roost boxes (Roosting Pockets/Gardener’s Supply Company), winter bird shelters, bird houses (Gardener’s Supply Company), or houses made from gourds. Refer to Unique Garden Ideas on how to build your own gourd house.
Build a brush pile with some of the following elements so the birds can insulate their own homes.
- spent leaves from the fall
- loose hay
- dead twigs
- dry grass that hasn’t been treated with pesticides
- pine needles
- bark strips
- cattail fluff
- down cotton
You DO NOT want to add dryer lint, plastic, cellophane, aluminum foil or tinsel to the mix. These are harmful to the birds.
Safety for your fine feathered friends is a necessity. Here are just a few tips to keep the birds safe and healthy.
- Clean your bird feeders and baths regularly.
- Position the bird feeder to protect the birds from hawks. Place them where it would be difficult for a large hawk to perch on the bird feeder or bath.
- Supply plants or brush piles for immediate safety.
- Keep domestic cats indoors and take steps to protect birds from stray or feral cats.
- Put a bell on your cat if he/she goes outdoors to forewarn the birds of the predator. Inspect for cat paw prints.
- Place your bird feeders high so the birds do not make for easy prey.
- Clean up spilled seed frequently to prevent birds from eating from the ground.
- Use plastic or metal poles to prevent cats from climbing the support to your bird feeder or bird house.
- Prevent window collisions by using window clings.
Those Darn Squirrels!
Anyone who has a bird feeder and squirrels will know how difficult it is to prevent squirrels from eating your bird seed. Squirrels have a ravenous appetite and can clear out a full bird feeder in no time. Here are a few suggestions to keep those critters from your birds’ dinner table.
- Invest in a squirrel resistant pole with a spring baffle (Amazon), one that is manufactured to prevent squirrels from climbing up.
- Place your feeder 10 feet away from any tree limbs or structures. Squirrels can jump horizontally up to 10 feet.
- Purchase a squirrel proof bird feeder.
- Buy a feeder with weight sensitive perches. Birds are much lighter than squirrels and will not trigger the perch to collapse.
- Purchase a battery powered feeder that spins (Amazon) when a squirrel jumps on it. This is very funny to watch!
- Fill your feeder with foods squirrels dislike. For instance, white proso millet, nyjer seed, and safflower seed.
- Use hot pepper powder to deter squirrels. The ingredient that causes heat on our pallet is called capsaicin. Squirrels, humans, and other mammals are sensitive to this. Birds are not. They sell specific bird seed that’s coated with a powder or liquid of capsaicin. Also, some suets contain capsaicin.
- Use a separate feeder for your squirrels.
- Do not harm the squirrels. They’re hungry too!!
Click her for a review on squirrel deterrent bird feeders.
Winter is a wonderful time of year, especially when the temperatures are consistently low. You may be stuck inside your cozy surroundings but take some time to enjoy and observe the beauty outside. If you supply good eats, a drink of water, shelter and safety in your backyard, you will be rewarded with frequent visits from a delightful variety of fine feathered friends.
I hope you learned a thing or two from this article. Please share it with others and enjoy nature. I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
12 thoughts on “How to Attract Birds in Winter – Some Tips”
We like you ideas and tips on how to attract the birds in the winter and how to prepare for them before they come. We are glad that we stubbled upon your website we are going to put up some food as well, it has been hot lately so they are sticking around.
Planting trees are a good way to help the environment out and the birds.
We support what you are doing with your website.
I’m happy you like my website. I try to supply people with useful ways to help the environment and keep it healthy. There is so much beauty in this world. We need to preserve it as best as we can. Thanks for commenting.
I remember seeing parakeets in a park in Belgium during winter and I was so worried about them, but then someone told me that they escaped from a home years ago and they have been living in the park ever since. They spend winters there and do pretty well. It is amazing how well they adapted.
I don’t live in an area with harsh winters – I left Belgium a long time ago and I now live in Mexico – but I leave water for the birds and I put it high up in a tree, hanging from a thin branch, to make sure that my cat can’t get to it. I always make sure the water is fresh.
I hadn’t heard of bird water bowls that can be temperature regulated, that’s nice for winters.
I love birds. It’s always beautiful to watch them. 🙂
Thanks for commenting. That’s great that you put the water fountain up high to prevent animals from preying on the birds. I love my cats, but I would be very sad to see him and/or her attack a bird. One time my dog caught a bird. Thankfully I caught him in time and he dropped it. It was fine. We need to help preserve our bird population. They are so much fun to watch and add such beauty to our environment.
Hey Nina, what a lovely post. I enjoyed it and laughed so sweetly. It was especially funny to me when I imagined a battery powered feeder that spins when a squirrel jumps on it lol. It is really very funny to watch!
I love animals, especially birds. These are such wonderful creatures and they need help to survive the winter. When the weather is nice, I have the practice of feeding pigeons with bread or popcorn behind my building. The scene is beautiful and fills my heart. However, in the winter I can’t force myself to go out in the cold. Besides, I live in an apartment, not a house. That’s why I really like the idea of coating pine cones or anything else and hanging it on a tree in front of my apartment. I watched the video, very original and creative. Thank you for this idea and for the beautiful and useful texts. Looking forward to the next post.
Thanks for commenting. I really enjoy watching the birds in winter. We do need to help them out when it turns cold. Coating pine cones with peanut butter and seed is an excellent source of food for our fine feathered friends. It’s quite simple to create one. I’m glad you liked the video. Have fun watching and learning from the birds!
Thanks for presenting a plan with such lovely tips! I found the tips related to prepping to invite the birds, provision of water and shelter and safety very informative but my major focus was on food and how to deter those pesky squirrels.
Loved the two videos on the DIY Suet cakes and the Bird Cone Pine Feeder. Wondered where to hang the pine cone feeder though because of the squirrels…. I am definitely looking forward to try out a couple of the squirrel deterrents you recommened such as a feeder with weight sensitive perches, a battery powered feeder that spins, use of foods squirrels dislike and hot pepper powder.
I’m glad you liked my post. I’m not sure I would try the spinning feeder because I have vertigo and would hate to see another creature inflicted with that problem!! However, you can purchase squirrel deterrent feeders that have cages around them. These types proide access to the seed for birds but not for squirrels. I hope these tips work for you. Let me know how you make it. Thanks for the comment.
Nice post Nina! We also feed birds in the winter. We have always offered them sunflower seeds, which seems to be their favorite. Offering them water is a new idea for me. It’s quite here at Finland during the winter, so I’m not sure if those heated water machine will survive here? It can get down to -20C (-4F).
Thanks for the comment. The heater I recommended is supposed to continue working through cold temperatures, but I’m not sure whether it will sustain those temperatures. I’ll research it and do a review on it. Stay tuned for the review. I’m glad you feed the birds, especially in harsh climates. I love watching them and want to take care of them however possible. Let me know how you make out if you choose to purchase the heated water bird bath.
Your guide to attracting birds in winter is awesome to read. I live in the Southern Hemisphere but you point out some very interesting tips.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post and were able to take away some tips. Thanks for commenting.