Paula's Patch: A Minnesota Garden

Come wander in; my gate is always open! Gardening / Birding

Winter Bird Feeding February 8, 2012

nuthatch | | paula bonelli

Nuthatch | © Paula Bonelli

Feeding the birds is one way of making sure your garden is a lively place even during the gray days of winter. It’s best to establish feeding areas in late-Fall, but any time will do.

Birds will always opt for natural food when they can get it. After a storm or blanket of snow, they will depend on your feeders as an additional food source. I’ve found that a variety of seeds, fruit and nuts attract the most wanted birds.

I have feeders in my yard year-round, but move them closer to my windows for winter viewing. That way I don’t miss a thing! I have a small yard so this does not disturb the birds too much since the feeders aren’t very far away from their summer locations. If you have a large yard and move a feeder some distance, it may take the birds days or weeks to find the new spot.

In the northern Midwest, these birds are in my yard year-round: Woodpeckers (Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied), Northern Cardinal, Bluejay, House Sparrow*, House Finch*, Black-Capped Chickadee.

Here’s what works for me come Winter:

  • Black-oiled sunflower (tube feeder): Juncos, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers Cardinals, and sometimes Finches and Sparrows
  • Unsalted peanut pieces (tube feeder): Chickadees, Nuthatches
  • Safflower (large tray/platform feeder , hopper feeder): Nuthatches, Cardinals, Sparrows, Finches, Chickadees
  • Whole Peanuts in the shell (small tray/platform feeder): Bluejays
  • Suet (bottom-access-only feeder–see nuthatch image above): Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Chickadees
  • Orange halves (on nails): House Finches

*House Sparrows and House Finches can be a nuisance if they are abundant because they can clean out your feeders in a hurry and intimidate the songbirds. Squirrels can also be a trouble. Avoiding wild bird food mix or cracked corn can reduce the number of these bullies. The seeds above do a pretty good job of keeping these visitors to a minimum.

dark-eyed junco | | paula bonelli

Dark-eyed Junco | © Paula Bonelli

Set up your dining stations near trees and shrubs for protection from wind and predators. To keep the birds visiting your yard, keep your feeders full. There are many places you can find bird food — online (pros=delivery to your door; cons=shipping can be expensive), big box stores and garden centers. In our area (MN), Mills Fleet Farm has the best deal; large bags, economical prices, good variety.

Create a sanctuary in your yard and you’ll get endless entertainment from the antics of your backyard birds!

What types of food attracts your winter birds?

The links to feeders in this post are for a partner of mine. If you click through and buy one, I will earn a small referral fee.


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