During the winter, food becomes scarce for wild birds
and many people like to provide food for them. Here are
some things to keep in mind if you decide to feed wild
birds this winter.
1. You are making a commitment
There is a certain responsibility in taking on wild bird
feeding. Bear in mind that you will need to purchase bird
feed, and make trips out to your bird feeder at least
several times a week to replenish the feed or clean up the
area. And once you begin, the birds will come to depend on
2. The right food
Certain birds like certain foods, and you are more
likely to attract birds to your backyard if you have feed
specific to their needs. Find out what kinds of birds are
in your area and which ones you want to attract. Then buy
the feed accordingly.
Here are the preferred diets of some of the more common
- Sunflower seeds: black-capped chickadees, blue jays,
dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, gold finches, evening
- White millet: mourning doves, house finch, gold finch
- Cracked corn: cardinals, mourning doves, pigeons, blue
- Peanuts: tufted titmice, black-capped chickadees, red and
white-breasted nuthatches, hairy and downy woodpeckers
- Suet: black-capped chickadees, evening grosbeaks, house
and gold finches
Sparrows will eat all of the above except peanuts.
3. The right feeder
Some birds, such as mourning doves and black-eyed
juncos, prefer feeding on the ground. If you want to
attract ground-feeders, be sure you have some sort of
covering in the form of shrubbery or fencing, as
ground-feeding tends to attract predators. If you have a
hanging feeder, it's still a good idea to provide
protection for ground-feeders because some of the seed will
fall to the ground, attracting ground-feeding birds. For
hanging feeders, get one that is sturdy and has a guard
against squirrels and raccoons.
4. Plant trees and shrubs with winter berries
Another way to attract birds to your back yard is to
have plants that bear fruit in the winter that some birds
like. Examples include dogwood, American holly, wax myrtle,
and firethorn. These are also lovely landscape plants, and
they provide protection for their feathered partakers in
the form of thorns or dense growth.
A water source such as a birdbath also attracts birds.
In the winter, you will need to keep the water from
freezing either by hand (such as pouring warm water into it
periodically) or by purchasing a commercial birdbath that
uses electricity to heat the water.
6. Be patient
It often takes a few days for the birds to discover your
buffet. If you are willing to wait, however, some feathered
friends will eventually show up. As word gets around, more
and more birds will come to your feeder.