How to Attract and Feed Wild Birds in the Winter 

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 your offerings. 

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 backyard birds.

- Sunflower seeds: black-capped chickadees, blue jays, dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, gold finches, evening grosbeaks
- White millet: mourning doves, house finch, gold finch
- Cracked corn: cardinals, mourning doves, pigeons, blue jays, starlings
- 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.

5. Water

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.

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