Winter is a tough time for birds, especially when it comes to food and shelter. But we can help them survive the long winter months.
Birds have the same needs—food, water, shelter—in winter as they do any other time. Helping these winter visitors could help sustain their populations in both their wintering and summering grounds. We have compiled the following guide on simple ways you can help.
Bird-friendly Yards and Communities
Where birds thrive, people prosper. One of the most important things we can do to help birds and other wildlife is to make our yards bird and wildlife-friendly.
- Minimize the amount of manicured lawn in your yard. Reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilizers in your yard and plant native species. The wilder and more varied, the better it is for your avian neighbors.
- Make a brush pile in the corner of the yard. Collect and set aside fallen branches and logs. This will provide shelter for birds from predators and storms, and a place to roost at night.
- Rake leaves up under trees and shrubs and leave them there. The resulting mulch will make a lush environment for the insects and spiders that birds love to eat.
- Create a songbird border of native trees and shrubs to create shelter from wind. Berry and fruit-producing shrubs and trees such as dogwoods, hollies, chokeberries, and elderberries and cherry trees are favored by many types of birds. Plant native species whenever possible, and always avoid invasives.
- Clean out old nest boxes and feeders. It's wise to remove old nests and seeds from shelters and feeders to prevent birds from getting sick.
- Protect Your Windows. About a billion birds die from glass collisions each year. You can reduce this threat by making all your windows visible to birds. Glass appears clear or reflective to birds. Visual cues and markers as window decals on the outside of windows alert birds to the presence of glass.
Winter is a hard time for birds, especially when it comes to food and shelter. Many birds rely on fruits and seeds for survival, especially from feeders when food is scarce.
- Providing bird feeders in winter will attract many birds to your yard. Place feeders in locations near, but not directly next to shelters. This allows birds to see any potential predators—but doesn’t allow the predators to catch birds on the feeders. This also prevents bird collisions.
*For a list of Audubon’s birdhouses and feeders visit, www.woodlink.com.
- Attract different kinds of birds with different kinds of food. In general,
- Suet and peanut butter are attractive to woodpeckers, wrens, chickadees, and others.
- Sunflower seeds appeal especially to finches, but many other small-to-medium sized birds eat sunflower including chickadees and juncos.
- Hulled sunflower seeds can be eaten by smaller birds as well—though more pricey, there’s much less waste and less mess under the feeder.
- Nyjer or thistle is attractive to smaller finches like goldfinches, siskins, and redpolls.
- Mixed seed will attract most species to some extent; doves and pheasants like the millet content.
- Cracked corn on the ground will attract ground-feeding species including doves, pheasants, quail, and turkeys.
- On the West and Gulf Coasts and in the desert Southwest, nectar feeders for hummingbirds make a nice addition to the yard in winter (and year-round).
*Audubon’s premium quality wild bird seed blends and suet are now available at Lowe’s stores nationwide.
- Provide Water. A clean source of water, such as a birdbath, will be of great use to birds, and a dripping water source can be a magnet for birds. In areas with winter freeze-up, it’s best to use a heated birdbath.
Other Ways You Can Help
Feeding birds and identifying them is a great family project. From urban centers to rural towns, everyone can help native birds. In turn, birds offer us a richer, more beautiful, and healthful place to live.
Join Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count to help count birds for science. For more information and locations visit, http://www.audubon.org/content/join-christmas-bird-count
Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count by counting birds for as little as 15 minutes in your own backyard. Visit, https://www.audubon.org/content/about-great-backyard-bird-count
Learn more about how winter bird populations are shifting and changing due to climate change at climate.audubon.org