The short answer is, you don’t stop feeding birds in the winter. Many people wonder when is a good time to take their bird feeders in for the winter and let the birds migrate. The fact is though, that winter may be the most important time to leave your feeders out and stocked with seed. Leaving your feeders out through the winter will not keep migratory birds from flying to warmer climates and doing what they have been genetically programmed to do for thousands of years.
What leaving feeders out year round will do though is keep the birds that do not migrate fed and not having to scrounge for food all winter long. Many of the birds you see at your feeders during the warm months actually do not migrate and the only reason you don’t see them in the winter is because you stop feeding them! Take the northern Cardinal for instance, these birds stick around all year. If you leave food out through the winter you will likely see them at your feeders all year.
Below is a list of some other birds that may frequent your yard during the warmer months but do not migrate therefore could greatly benefit from you leaving out seed all year long for them to munch on.
- Tufted Titmice
- Northern Cardinals
- Blue Jays
- House Finches
- House Sparrows
- Black-capped Chickadees
- American Goldfinches
- Dark-eyed Juncos
- Pine Siskins
- Carolina Wrens
How to attract wild birds in the winter
This is not really going to be different from attracting birds to a feeder any other time of the year. Just follow the basics and they will eventually find your feeder. This post will give you some good tips on how to attract birds to a feeder and how long it might take them to find your feeder, assuming you just put it out in the winter time. If your feeder stays up year round or you are leaving it out for the winter for the first time, they already know where it’s at and will continue feeding from it.
Here are a few basic tips though:
- Keep your feeders stocked full of seed
- Place your feeders near (about 15 ft away) shelter, i.e. trees, bushes so they have cover nearby in case of a predator.
- Use a squirrel proof feeder. it seems like squirrels are extra hungry in the winter and will eat up everything if you don’t take precautions. Check out this post we did on how to keep squirrels out of your feeders.
- A birdbath or water supply close by will help them look at your yard as a long term home if they can get everything they need to survive in your backyard.
What to feed birds in the winter
Feeding birds in the winter time is slightly different from the rest of the year. While they will eat your normal bag of mixed seeds, there are a few different types of food you can offer them additionally that will give them enough extra energy to make it through the cold winter months.
In addition to birdseed, a few options you can offer your winter birds:
- Suet – Suet is made primarily from animal fat which gives the birds a lot of energy to last through the winter. You can buy suet where you normally buy your birdseed, or you can make your own suet fairly easily.
- Mealworms – A great high energy food for birds that has plenty of protein is mealworms, which are just beetle larvae. They can be purchased live from bait shops or some specialty stores online but freeze-dried mealworms can also be purchased fairly cheaply online making them a great winter bird food.
- Black sunflower seeds – Black oil sunflower seeds are very popular among backyard birds year round, not just in the colder months. The high oil content gives the birds plenty of energy making black oil sunflower seeds not only a great option, but an inexpensive one.
- Peanuts – With high protein and fat nutrients, most birds relish peanuts when offered making them a great choice to feed birds during the colder months. You can get a large bag of peanuts on Amazon that should last a while.