Winter Feeding for Great Bird Watching

Bird watching in the winter months provides many rewards for us. As the cold weather settles in around us, we begin to think of our feathered friends outside. We know they will be fine; after all they have survived for thousands of years on their own.

But we can’t help ourselves from wanting to assist them by putting out a bird feeder.

After all it is harder to find food with a snow cover and no new natural sources are being produced at this time of year. To give them a hand we put out our feeders to help them fuel up their bodies to keep warm.

There are 3 things that wild birds need most in winter:

Plenty of good food

A place to get out of the cold and wind


3 Things You Need to Know

If you are going to attract wild birds in winter for bird watching, there are some things to consider. We’ll talk about three winter bird feeding elements necessary for winter survival.

    1. Winter hardy food.

    2. Providing shelter from the elements.

    3. Water is also a difficult commodity to find in winter, but a necessity.

(You will find links to more info related to this topic in the right column or bottom of page.)

Hardy Wild Bird Food

Suet is the perfect food for cold weather feeding. With its high fat content suet offers energy-rich nutrition to help birds keep warm.

It can be served in a specialty suet feeder, crumbled up and placed on a platform feeder, smeared on pine cones, or stuffed into holes in a narrow log.

The addition of suet bird food to the menu of your backyard diner will broaden the number and variety of birds on your bird watching checklist.

Suet can be purchased in a variety of flavours or mixed at home with peanut butter, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and for a big protein boost try an insect packed suet. (You may want to purchase the last kind!)

It should also be mentioned here that not just any fat should be used. It should only be rendered beef fat, no pork, shortening, butter, margarine or any other type of fat.

Black oil sunflower seed is a good staple seed which the greatest variety of birds will eat. Still it is a good thing to lay out a variety of seed and feeders to provide a well balanced bird buffet.

A hardy seed blend is recommended for at least one bird seed feeder.

A mix with nuts and fruit will provide a well balanced winter diet. A good diet rich in protein and fat is essential to carry their bodies through the cold winter nights.

Providing such a varied dining opportunity for feathered friends will only enrich your bird watching experience.

Wild Bird Shelters

Another vital element to winter survival is shelter. Shelter from freezing cold temperatures and raw winds is important. If shelter is too far away from feeders it will make it more difficult to attract wild birds to feeders.

Mature trees and shrubs on your property afford birds a natural source of protection from the cold. Evergreens, with their dense branching and blanket of needles, are excellent for providing refuge. Trees will develop large trunks and sturdy limbs as they mature, to create ideal accommodations for cavity dwellers.

But if mature vegetation does not exist on your property, try some of these suggestions.

  • Build a brush pile. This can provide a much appreciated break from the cold weather.

  • Instead of discarding used Christmas trees, put them outside for the birds to use. When the needles have all dried up and fallen off, add it to your brush pile.
  • Another solution is to install sheltering roosting boxes that allow many birds to huddle together for warmth. Unlike regular birdhouses, roosting boxes are uniquely designed with the opening at the bottom to reduce heat loss. Roosting boxes also have multiple perches up each side to accommodate lots of little friends. There are no air vents in the top, unlike bird houses, to keep heat from escaping. When placed five to ten feet from your feeders, the birds can easily make the journey back and forth when the weather is particularly nasty.

  • Bird houses also make good roosting boxes. Leave the old nest in for the colder months, as long as there are no unhatched eggs or dead hatchlings. It is best to plug the air vents just for the winter. In the spring it will be necessary to clean out the house and unplug the air vents.

  • Bluebird houses make especially good roosting boxes. Turned upside down so the entrance hole is at the bottom and plug the air vents. Inside place sticks for perches.

  • A hand woven natural grass roosting pocket can also provide warmth and shelter for those birds that like a smaller less crowded spot.

Great satisfaction can be the result of offering bird shelters for winter bird watching.

Provide Water in the Winter for Better Bird Watching

It’s Bath Time!

A vital element in your bird-friendly winter yard is a heated birdbath. Birds must have fresh, ice free water for bathing and drinking year round. It may be considered by some to be unnecessary as birds will eat snow. But drinking open water means they do not loose as much body heat as when they eat snow.

Bird baths that have a built in heating element can be purchased and used all year. Also a bird bath heater can be placed in an existing bird bath. A heated water bowl for a pet also works very well.

It is safer to purchase a heater or heated bath, than it is to attempt to rig up a homemade creation.

The "EZ Tilt Heated Deck Bath" featured in the middle column at the bottom is a good bath to use in the winter. I sold them in my store and they were well liked. They sell other models as well that are free standing.

Winter bird watching can bring a delightful respite and warm up our own experience of weathering the long cold winter season as we watch birds enjoy the bath.

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Four Season Feeding

Become A Backyard Bird Expert

        Would you like to be a bird expert able to:

  • Know by sight all the birds that visit your backyard?
  • Identify the birds you hear on a walk?
  • Answer your Grandkids or friends question, "What bird is that?".

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