What to Feed Winter Birds

Image: birdfeeders.us

Many birds fly to a warmer climate in winter, but you'll be surprised how many stay if you begin to feed them! Winter birds have always been a symbol for the continuation of life and vibrancy, even in the coldest and darkest days. Encourage beautiful yet surprisingly hardy species to show their colors in your yard with these feed favorites.

What a Bird Wants

In winter, birds primarily need fat and calories. This means you need to amp up the suet/natural oils (i.e. seeds) in your birds' feed.

Winter-staying birds also need water, though the can get moisture through snowfall if necessary. On non-freezing days, keep out a dish of water as you would during warmer months.

Birdhouses are also welcome - just be sure squirrels aren't commandeering them (any knot or enclosed area will be attractive to both, as well as woodchucks, squirrels and other animals, particularly those late to starting hibernation).

Suet

The "fat balls" (yes, that's really what they're called) shown above are perfect for winter feeders. They're plump with warming suet and are stocked with seeds and millet (both are mentioned below) for a complete winter bird snack.

These have been placed in mesh to make them more difficult for squirrels and other animals to get into, while slender beaks can easily access the goodies inside.

Nuts

A surprising number of species enjoy nuts, particularly peanuts. Crush into small enough pieces for small birds to swallow and put out in a seed and millet mix.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds have plenty of oil to help maintain a fat layer for cold-blooded species. This makes them ideal for winter-staying birds. Sunflower seeds shown here have been mixed with millet.

Fruit

Birds that are not normally attracted to fruit will zero in on it during the wintertime for its high sugar content, giving energy and warmth. Cut up and put out slices of winter apples, grapes and cherries are perfect.

Be very careful of putting out dried fruit, which expand in a bird's stomach and could cause problems. For dried fruit, soak first overnight.

Millet

Nearly all birds, both wild and domesticated, love millet. It's small enough for almost any bird to swallow easily and provides dense nutrients and loads of energy for most species. 

Put it out on its original stalk or loose (as shown above). It's perfect in fat balls, too (see Suet, above).

Salt

Birds lacking certain nutrients will be attracted to salt. Put out as a cake rather than sprinkling onto feed, as not all birds will need or want extra salt. The cake, which is peckable, gives the bird the option of going for it, or leaving it alone.

If you have a deer problem, skip the salt, as it brings deer running, especially in winter.




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