Where Do My Birds Go In Winter1, Seasonal Change Means Birds Change.

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female northern cardinal on icy branch

What is this female Northern Cardinal sitting on an icy branch thinking? Is she waiting for the feeder to be cleaned off?

Question 1. Where Do My Birds Go in Winter?

From Jill in
Lakeland, MN

Where do my birds go in winter?

I have been improving my bird feeding area each year and I have been getting more birds each summer, but they still completely disappear each winter season.

Shouldn’t this be the opposite?

I have a thistle sock, black sunflower seed and now a safflower feeder. I have homemade suet and a heated birdbath.

I have many huge red pines that are somewhat stick-like until the top and a variety of vegetation in our woods-like far backyard.

We have lots of grassy areas also.

I have been on the lookout for predators, but I don’t see anything.

An Empty Feeder Could Be The Solution


My mom has almost the same set up, and she is covered in birds! I live in an outer suburban ring area about a ½ mile (as the crow flies) from a large river that does have some open water.

Maybe they are going there?

I also live in Minnesota where it has been extremely cold, so I thought they would really need me this year.

Please give me some advice and thank you!


Question  2. How Do I Attract Birds To My Feeder?

downy woodpecker climbing tree
Downy Woodpecker by Tiersa Gilbert

From Anonymous

We just moved to a new house where the past owners did not feed birds. We’ve had seed and suet balls out for 2 months now and not one bird has come by… is it just a question of waiting or is there something we can do to encourage them?

From Monique 

Dundas, Ontario, Canada

I hung up a bird feeder at the beginning of November and I have never seen any birds using it yet. How do I attract birds to my feeder?

Where do my birds go in winter?

Do these questions sound familiar?

Hi Everyone

Where do my birds go in Winter?

Yes, I hear this question and many more like it, all the time!

It is frustrating especially when people traditionally only fed the birds in the winter thinking the wild birds did not need the help in summer.

So you would expect them to be frequent visitors in the winter.

After all the weather is cold requiring more energy to keep warm and food is far more difficult to find. Naturally one would think the birds would desperately need our offerings and come readily.

Let’s talk about some of the reasons that prevent this expectation from becoming reality.

And also address why our feeders are sometimes ignored in the shoulder season.

winter bird feeder
Where Do My Birds Go in Winter?

7 Things to Consider When Birds Leave Your Feeders:

Where do my birds go in winter?

  1. Are your feeders clean and full consistently.
  2. Are your feeders out in the open or close enough to a tree which might provide a refuge in case of a predator? The birds will need some kind of cover, 5 to 10 feet from your feeder, to flee to in case of danger. The birds will also use this perching area to scan the area for danger first before they go to the feeder.

A Selection of Feeders That Protect The Seed During All Seasons

Hopper, Gazebo or Chalet Feeders

Seed Feeder Cleaners ~ My Top Picks

3.5 Star
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This brush has a nice end for cleaning corners of chalet feeders.

4.5 Star

Bird Poop Remover Wet Wipes

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I love using wipes to clean the perches often. They make it so easy.

  1. Another reason for not having any birds could be related to your proximity to a large body of water or open field. Some birds of prey hunt near water and open areas where they can see their target better. There could be birds of prey hunting in the area scaring off the small songbirds. It becomes very necessary to provide a place for small birds to hide if there are birds of prey in the area
  2. One more reason to provide a place for the birds to shelter is cold or severe weather. It is important for the birds to have a place to roost at night that is sheltered from the wind and where, their body heat can build up somewhat, to conserve heat and stay warm. They will also need this refuge during the day if the weather is very bad. You could put out a roosting box for your small songbirds to spend the night. If shelter is available close by then they will have one more reason to stay near to your feeders.
  3. Not having wild birds at your feeders could also be because there are no other feeding stations in the area. Wild birds are foragers and like to move from one source of food to another. If you live in an area where other households are feeding the birds too, then the birds will travel through, feeding on one station to another. If you do not have neighbors nearby, then your birds would have to travel further to find another feeding location. To rectify this problem, it may be helpful if you set up one feeding area in your front yard and one in your backyard providing two feeding stations. Of course, they use natural feeding spots too, but by providing a couple of feeding spots yourself, will help to draw them close.
  4. You will also need to look at the quality of the seed you are using. A wild bird’s energy reserve is crucial in the winter, therefore they will not hang around a feeding station, where they find undeveloped or tiny seed inside after the shells are cracked open. They cannot afford to spend their daylight hours and energy reserves consuming poor quality food. They will move on to locate a source that provides the energy they require.
  5. Wild Birds Are Not Fond Of Some Changes

Another question to ask yourself is…

  • Have you made any significant changes to your yard as the season changes? Wild birds are creatures of habit and will be cautious to come to a yard that has changed. This will be true any time of year. Make changes slowly to your yard. If you want to place something close to your feeding area, do it in increments so the birds have time to become accustomed to the object.
  • Above all, be persistent, don’t give up! Your winter birds may likely be entirely different from the ones who hang out in your yard in the summer. They will likely be from farther north and decide that your yard looks like a good place to stay for the winter. It may even take some time before you will attract and keep a group of birds for each season. But once they feel secure about the location in your yard, you won’t be asking again:

Where do my birds go in winter?

Don’t give up!

Hope this helps!


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.

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