Attracting and Feeding Birds in the Winter

Though most of us rarely venture farther than our own yards to go bird watching, it’s enough for us to spend significant amounts of money each year equipping our properties with feeders and birdhouses.  Let’s face it, we’re a nation of backyard ornithologists – it’s an enormous American pastime!

Winter can bring out some of the most colorful and interesting birds – that is, among those that don’t fly south – and there are a surprising number of them.  But it can be hard to know how to attract the maximum number of bird species to our feeders during the cold months.

Tips to Attract More Birds

Variety is the key when it comes to attracting more birds.  Experts also recommend situating more than one feeder at varying heights above the ground, to attract more varieties of birds.

Bird Seed

Insects are hard to come by when the ground is frozen.  So most birds that don’t fly south for the winter eat seeds.  Some good choices to offer in your feeders are black oil sunflower seeds (popular among cardinals, woodpeckers, blue jays, goldfinches, purple finches, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches), nyger/niger/thistle seed (popular with goldfinches), Safflower seeds (attracts titmice, chickadees, and downy woodpeckers), and white millet (scatter on the ground to attract sparrows, juncos, and mourning doves).

Good tip here: it’s been suggested that mixed birdseed is not a bargain.  Mixed seed contains a lot of filler that most birds won’t eat, and it just winds up on the ground.  Best way to attract the birds you want to see: buy the seed you know they want.


Probably the best thing you can treat your avian visitors to in the winter is suet, which is basically rendered beef (or venison) fat packed with seeds and other ingredients birds thrive on. Suet comes in a wide variety of mixes and can be purchased inexpensively.  Experts recommend the insect- or peanut-packed varieties as these provide all the richest proteins your winged friend need and then some.

Water for Birds

Perhaps not surprisingly, birds often suffer more from lack of water than lack of food in the winter.  Water, of course, is essential.  Heated birdbaths that maintain water at above-freezing temperatures in winter can be purchased at local pet stores for not a lot of money.  Your bird friends will thank you!

Bird Houses & Shelter

Just like any animal or human, birds needs shelter from the cold and wind.  If shelter is too far away from your feeders, you may not attract many visitors.  If you don’t have a lot of shrubbery or trees on your property, experts recommend you build a brush pile near your feeders.  And of course, birdhouses and roosting boxes are even better.

Good Luck and happy bird watching! Send us your bird photos, we would love to post them in our blog. You can send your photos in to