Feeding Birds in Winter: Tips to Feed Our Feathered Friends

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Bird feeder in snow 1

If you live in the plains states or upper Midwest, you probably spent most of the weekend digging out of up to 16 inches of snow. I live about 15 miles straight west of Chicago’s O’Hare airport, and we ended up with around 11 plus inches of heavy, wet snow. Once I cleared my driveway and my sidewalks, I thought about all the birds that no longer had a good source for food, and the importance of feeding birds in winter. Many of their food sources are now covered up. I was glad that I recently purchased some bird seed and I went out to fill all my bird feeders. Winter is a difficult time for many birds, especially the ones that do not migrate to the south. The days are shorter, and the nights are longer and colder. Their natural food supply has been consumed or is no longer accessible. Many birds have to change their feeding habits. For example, many birds feed on insects, but they are no longer available. Finding shelter will also be a challenge. Many birds seek shelter in bird houses or in evergreen trees, like spruces. We can help them out with a few tips for feeding birds in winter.

Where Should I Put My Bird Feeders?

If you are going to place bird feeders in your yard, try to choose sites that are out of the wind, such as the east or southeast side of your house. Positioning the feeders near places that offer cover or an area where the birds can perch to look for predators is always a good option. Another consideration regarding the placement of the feeder is what will happen to the seed that spills out of the feeders. House sparrows are notorious for emptying a feeder without really eating anything. They seem to prefer feeding on the ground, so be sure to pick a spot that offers a good view of any approaching cats.

What Kind of Bird Seed Should I Buy?

Bird seeds that are high in fat and calories are the best kinds of foods for helping birds survive the winter. Sunflower seeds are probably the best bird seed in this regard. They have a high fat and calorie content. Black oil sunflower seeds have the most fat/caloric content and the small shells don’t make as much of a mess as the larger striped shelled sunflower seeds. There is a certain comfort in feeding birds in winter and watching them eat from a feeder. They are fun to watch as they seem to examine every seed before eating it. Every now and then, a different bird will show up, like a cardinal or blue jay. Of course, the neighborhood squirrels always seem to find a way to butt in and takeover a feeder. We will discuss discouraging squirrels from emptying your feeders in a future blog. In addition to putting seed out for the birds, it’s not too late to start thinking about other winter lawn care ideas, which will help you get a head-start on spring. Check out some of our other winter lawn care posts here.