Tufted Titmouse
Bird-Friendly Communities

Welcome Winter Birds to Your Yard

Tips for helping birds endure the colder months.
Tufted Titmouse Photo: Nancy Tully, GBBC
Bird-Friendly Communities

Welcome Winter Birds to Your Yard

Tips for helping birds endure the colder months.

Winter is a tough time for birds, especially when it comes to finding food and shelter - but there are ways that we can help!

Birds have the same needs—food, water, shelter—in winter as they do any other time. Supporting these needs for overwintering birds could help to sustain their populations. We have compiled the following guide on simple ways you can help.

Creating 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 more 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 Birdfeeding

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    Black-capped Chickadee Photo: Missy Mandel/Great Backyard Bird Count
    Tufted Titmouse Photo: Catherine McEntee
    Northern Cardinal, Carolina Chickadee, Darkeyed Junco and Whitethroated Sparrow
    Northern Cardinal Photo: William Dix
    House Sparrow and Blue Jay Photo: Rob Weisman/Audubon Photography Awards
    Red-breasted Nuthatch Photo: Norm Dougan
    Downy Woodpecker Photo: Michele Black
    Carolina Wren Photo: Michele Black/Great Backyard Bird Count
    White-breasted Nuthatch Photo: Michele Black/Great Backyard Bird Count

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    Other Ways You Can Help

    Counting birds is a fun, impactful way to contribute to community science. From urban centers to rural towns, everyone can help to monitor bird populations.