Bird Feeding Tips – Your Guide To Winter Feeding

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Bird Feeding Tips – Your Guide To Winter Feeding

How to prepare for winter bird feeding in 8 steps will help to bring success to your backyard birding efforts during the coldest time of year.


Are You asking “How to feed birds in winter?”

How to prepare for winter bird feeding in 8 steps will answer that question as you setup your backyard with these helpful tips.

1. Tips on Why You Should NOT Clean Up Your Garden in Autumn!

At least not all of it:

  1. If you have plants, trees or bushes in your yard that need pruning wait until late spring instead of doing it in the fall. That alone will help your winter birds. (More on this further down.)
  2. Rake your leaves onto your gardens. It is better for your grass not to be covered in leaves for the winter as leaves can cause your grass to develop disease if left on it all winter. But your gardens are a different story. Your garden plants will benefit from the added protection against the cold that your leaves will provide. And so will bugs. Which are a very beneficial food source to birdlife. Most birds including seed eaters and even nectar lovers like Hummingbirds need to eat protein rich bugs.
  3. And yes, I did say leave your pruning to late spring if you can. This will give wild birds returning from their spring migration journey an opportunity to eat up seeds which were left from the autumn crop. The birds will also gratefully munch on the bugs coming to life from their winter shelter among your dead plant matter.(I am not a gardening expert but I did get these gardening tips from one.)  ?
attract cardinals in winterHow to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps

(Number 2 of “How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps.”)

2. What Are The 6 Best Winter Bird Foods?

So what are the six best (but not only, winter foods) for winter bird feeding from:

How to prepare for winter bird feeding in 8 steps

Best 6 Winter Bird Foods

  1. Suet is a very important food for helping birds produce heat to keep warm during the very long nights of winter time. This meal comprised largely of fat is hard to beat. Lots of energy for foraging and keeping warm. Many food items can be added to increase the attraction and nutrition
  2. Black-oil sunflower seed is also a nutrient rich, fatty food that will also be gratefully received by many birds.
  3. Nyjer seed is also a great food for winter feeding because it too is an oily seed. It will keep Gold Finches and other birds with small bills like Titmouse, Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls and of course Chickadees (if the black oil sunflower seed runs out) coming back for a good meal).
  4. Peanuts in a shell and shelled. A peanut in the shell feeder is one of my favourite feeders. All types of Woodpeckers and Nuthatches spend many happy hours each day hanging on while they perform their amazing surgery on the peanuts in the shell. It never ceases to amaze me how they can poke what seems a very small hole in each lobe of the shell and remove the meat.
  5. Dried whole-kernel corn is another seed that you can offer for Jays, Pigeons, Doves, Quail and Pheasants if you live in a rural area for the last two. Cracked corn will be well received because of its smaller size by Finches, Sparrows and Blackbirds. It also offers a high fat content for producing body warmth and is cheap to purchase.
  6. Safflower seed is a high fat seed that will provide a good source of energy for wild birds in cold temperatures. It also has the benefit that squirrels and some other birds like Starlings and Blackbirds do not like it, but it is a favourite of Cardinals.
bird feeding stationBest Wild Bird Food for Winter Feeding Station

(Number 3 of “How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps.”)

3. What Type of Feeders Work Best for Winter Bird Feeding?

Some types of bird food in the list above require special feeders, let’s sort this out.

What is the Solution? Use a Variety of Feeders:

  1. Fly-thru/platform/table feeders (another of my favourites) are the best style of feeders for attracting a wide variety of wild birds. In addition, they are basically just a flat surface, sometimes with a roof, which makes viewing the birds easy. A fly-thru feeder is the only type of feeder that I will fill with mixed seed, as this gives all the different types of food in a mixed seed a chance to be eaten.
  2. Gazebo/hopper/chalet feeders are good feeders to attract a variety of birds. But if you fill it with a mixed seed birds will sit, on the perch or trough and shovel seed over the edge until they find the ones they want.
best-bird-feeders-for-winter-bird-feedingYou Must be Able to Reach Your Feeders to Brush the Snow Off

Another problem with the 2 feeders above is as mentioned earlier, they can attract the “bully” type birds, making it very difficult for the smaller birds to feed in peace.

If you only fill your hopper style feeders with black-oil sunflower and use the table style feeders for mixed seed, corn and scraps, then more peace will reign in your backyard.

  1. Use tube feeders for sunflower seeds. A tube feeder with very short perches will work best making it very difficult for larger birds to sit while eating.
  2. Add a suet feeder and you will undoubtedly attract many members of the Woodpecker family and likely more than one type. You are likely to see more than one type of Nuthatch too. What variety of Woodpeckers and Nuthatches you see is dependent on where you live. Many other birds will also enjoy suet and therefore benefit from this energy rich source.
  3. A nyjer/thistle feeder will brighten up your view with lots of Gold Finches (brighter view as the spring moves in when the males grow their summer plumage). Thistle is their most favourite food. Other types of Finches and of course Chickadees will eat from this feeder too.
  4. Ground bird feeder for the Sparrows, Juncos and Mourning Doves. One with a roof will assist by keeping the seed freer of snow and ice.

Set Your Wild Birds Dining Table With A Variety Of Feeders

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Chalet Style Bird Feeders

Tube Style Bird Feeders

Suet Bird Feeders For Warmth & Energy

(Number 4 of “How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps.”)

4. List of Winter Shelters for Wild Birds?

bird-house-as-roosting-boxA Bird House is Used for Shelter by Wild Birds in Winter

What do birds do to stay warm during the long nights of winter?

The days are short and usually a little warmer especially if the sun is shining.

Wild birds will be busy during these shortened hours of daylight filling up with as much food as they can.

The amount and type of food they eat all day will be an important factor
in how well they survive during the longer winter night hours.

The second necessary element they need to survive the freezing nights after eating high energy food is a sheltered place to spend the dark hours until sunlight returns.

Other Winter Bird Shelters

  1. Brush pile – easy to build
  2. Dead trees/snags
  3. Roosting boxes
  4. Roosting pockets
  5. Bird
  6. Densely branched shrubs and coniferous trees.
  7. Even old nests will be taken advantage of as a place to roost over night.
  8. Wild birds are opportunists taking advantage of whatever is at hand.

(Number 5 of “How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps.”)

5. Why a Heated Bird Bath Helps Wild Birds?

Heated bird baths provide accessible water during freezing temperatures. This is well appreciated because:

  1. Birds will eat snow to keep from dehydrating during winter months in areas where temperatures drop below freezing. Eating snow means their bodies must work much harder to keep warm and not be consumed by cold.
  2. When any creature requires more energy for an activity then it also increases their need for more food. So wild birds need to find more food to eat if there is no water available to drink and their only option is snow.
  3. The last reason is you will also delight in watching your feathered friends drinking and sometimes bathing at your heated bird bath.

Supplying Water In Winter For Wild Birds
~ My Top Picks~

(Number 6 of “How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps.”)

6.  Learn About Bird Feeder Feeder Placement In Winter, Bird Shelter & Heated Bird Baths

When placing your bird feeders, heated bird baths and
roosting accommodations in your outdoor space here are some things to consider.

Think about their accessibility for maintaining them, refilling and cleaning:

  • If you should need to replace the rope or chain which is suspending your feeders, then you will want to be able to easily access it.
  • Can you reach your feeders if they need freeing from ice and snow.
icicles-covering-bird-feeder-must-be-cleaned-offKeep Snow & Ice Brushed Off Feeders
So Birds Can Easily Eat
  • How much snow will you have to shovel to reach your feeders or heated bird bath.
  • Will the electrical cord extension you are using with the heated bird bath reach the location you want to set it up?
  • Place
    feeders, sleeping accommodation and baths 10 – 20 feet from one another
    to allow birds comfort space. No one wants to sleep too close to a
    public dining room. ?

(Number 7 of “How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps.”)

 7. More Tips on How to Feed Birds in Winter

It is critical to choose feeders that are sturdy enough for use in the winter especially if your weather includes blowing ice and snow.

The last thing you want to see when you look out your window is parts of your bird feeder swaying in the wind and the rest on the ground in a pile of bird seed.

winter-birdfeeder-chickadees-and-juncosPrepare for Winter Bird Feeding Using Sturdy Feeders

Why Keeping Bird Feeders Clean in Winter is Part of How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps?

Maintaining bird feeders properly in winter is also very important.

Cleanliness is necessary for wild birds survival.

We have lured them in with our offerings and where many birds hang out so does bacteria abound with disease following in short order.

Fortunately, it is less concerning during cold temperatures, but wild birds can still pick-up disease in winter.

  • Whatever types or styles of bird feeders you hang in your backyard start with clean feeders. You can conveniently use wet wipes to clean off the perches and feeding ports of your feeders. This will keep them safe for your feathered friends in-between washings.
  • Seed that sits too long in the bottom and corners of your feeders are also fertile beds for disease and mold. Just clean out the seed that is left in the bottom of your feeders on a regular basis before re-filling. This will prevent build-up of rancid, moldy seed which could make your birds sick.
  • Autumn is the best time to perform repairs to your feeders. Safeguarding too that your feeders are hung and mounted securely so they are not blown down during winter storms.

(Number 8 of “How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps.”)

8. Make a Plan Now, for Next Year

Preparing for good winter bird feeding means planning ahead. In spring consider native trees, shrubs and plants which feed birds with their many different parts.

A large or small tree or plants that produce fruits, seeds, catkins, buds, or other plant parts that grow food birds will eat.

These natural sources of food may often remain available well into the cold months of winter and even into spring.

How to prepare for winter bird feeding in 8 steps will help you plan changes to your outdoor space to make your bird watching more enjoyable.

“How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps.”

More About Winter Bird Feeding

  • Winter Bird Feeding
    Bird watching in the winter months provides many rewards for us. We can’t help ourselves from wanting to assist them by putting out a bird feeder.
  • How to Prepare for Winter Bird Feeding in 8 Steps?
    It is important to know what needs to be done to make your winter bird feeding efforts successful for your pleasure and for helping birds survive.
  • Where are they in Winter?  A question often asked is answered: “I have been getting more birds each summer, but why do they still completely disappear each winter?”
  • Bird Watching Guide December  The first month of hard winter season is here. This guide provides direction through the busy holiday season to ensure our backyard buddies have the supplies they need to have a good winter.
  • Bird Watching Guide January  Bird feeding in the depths of January is wonderful to enjoy and a perfect time to plan for the coming year.
  • Bird Watching Guide February  There are two very important things that happen for wild birds in winter. Learn what they are.

The Other 3 Seasons

  • Spring Bird Feeding  An exciting time when wild birds return to their northern breeding grounds after their long migration.
  • Summer Bird Feeding  A very rewarding season to feed and house wild birds. There is such a variety of bird life and feathered family activity to enjoy.
  • Fall Bird Feeding
    Some people think that bird feeding in the autumn is not a good idea. They mistakenly believe that their feeders will keep the birds from migrating. Find out the truth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it good to feed birds in the winter?

Yes, It is good to feed birds in the winter because the birds need food to survive the cold, so they need extra food during the cold weather.

Should I leave my bird feeders out in winter?

Leaving your bird feeders out in winter is a great way to invite a variety of birds to your yard year-round. However, it’s important to take safety precautions to ensure your feeders and birds are well protected from the elements and predators.

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