Winter is for the Birds! No, really, it is.

We made it to February! Yay! Winter is long from over (I just received a Winter Storm Warning alert on my phone). While the cold and snow keep lingering, there is still a few things that keep us entertained during the last of the cold, gray, snow-filled days. One of these things would be viewing our fine, feathered friends, the birds!

February is National Bird Feeding Month. Why? Because we are in the heart of winter, and this is the hardest time for birds to find food. You can get a bird feeder at the store for very little money and can be entertained for hours by the birds that stop by.

These two little guys couldn't get enough of all the little birds that stopped by my feeder earlier this winter.
These two little guys couldn’t get enough of all the little birds that stopped by my feeder earlier this winter.

In fact, you would be surprised at what you might get coming to your feeder. Last winter was when I really wanted to start feeding the birds again. I put my first one up when I was pregnant four years ago now, but then I had a baby and it was the last thing on my mind for a few years! In the fall of 2013, I bought a big feeder that I have in the front yard, and three small tube feeders hanging on my patio in the back.

Last winter, I got a very large red-bellied woodpecker at my feeder! My husband was able to take a few great photos of this bird on our feeder. It was absolutely amazing!

As you can see, the top of my bird feeder is off thanks to our neighborhood squirrels who finished up the last of the bird seed!
As you can see, the top of my bird feeder is off thanks to our neighborhood squirrels who finished up the last of the bird seed!
Red-bellied Woodpecker with no red on its belly!
Red-Bellied Woodpecker with no red on its belly!

What do birds eat?

Black Oil Sunflower Seed– this is the best choice for birds, because it is full of nutritional content. Traditionally, the wild bird mix that is about $7 for a 20lb. bag is not hearty enough for the birds, but it works nonetheless. I usually will use the wild bird mix in the spring, when the snow melts and it’s easier for them to forage for food.

  • What birds like sunflower seed? In my experience, almost all of them. The ones that I can get to come to my feeder in my area, that is.
    • Cardinals
    • Blue Jays
    • Black Capped Chickadees
    • Sparrows (Many varieties)

Assorted High-End Wild Bird Mixes –not all mixes mean they are of less quality. There are plenty of wild bird mixes that are very good nutritionally for birds. Mixes are meant to attract certain groups of birds, but quite honestly, I just get the same old birds all the time!

Thistle Seed — I actually tried this last winter and got nothin’! It’s most likely because I really don’t get a huge variety of birds in my area. The ones that I mentioned above are about it, besides the woodpecker. Thistle is actually supposed to attract different kinds of finches. It’s also on the pricier side, so that’s why I just tried a small bag. If you live in an area that has finches, I would recommend trying thistle seed.

Suet— hard beef fat that usually includes sunflower seeds, peanuts, many other seeds. Because it’s a high-energy food like sunflower seed, it’s really good for birds during the winter.

  • What birds like suet? Here are few more common examples:
    • Woodpeckers– LOVE this stuff. All of my birds come around and eat this, but the woodpeckers seem to be the big favorite.
    • Blue Jays, and other varieties of Jays
    • Chickadees
    • Nuthatches

Peanuts — did you ever wonder why there were peanut shells in your backyard while you were digging up your flower beds? Well, birds (and squirrels) LOVE peanuts, and you will find the shells everywhere! You can purchase a peanut feeder for squirrels as well. This is probably the smartest thing you can do, because then while the squirrels have their own feeder, they won’t bother your bird feeder as much!

*When feeding your birds peanuts, make sure they are raw and unsalted. The salted variety is not that good for them.

Who eats peanuts?

  • Woodpeckers
  • Jays
  • Chickadees
  • Sparrows
  • Finches
  • Cardinals
  • Nuthatches
  • Titmice
  • Magpies

Mealworms— are the larvae of the meal worm beetle. They are more of a dessert for birds, not a meal. They don’t have a lot of nutrition to them.

Birds that like them:

  • Bluebirds
  • Indigo Buntings
  • Catbirds
  • Chickadees

Fruit — birds love fruit! It’s a great source of sugar for them. They enjoy many different kinds of fruit, but the two most common that are the easiest to find are oranges and apples.

Fruit can be put on during the winter and summer, and you will have different birds for each season!

Here are some birds (there are many) that you will most likely find at your feeder that like to eat fruit in the winter:

  • Black Capped Chickadee
  • Blue Jays
  • Cedar Waxwings
  • Gray Catbird
  • Starlings — they can be a bit of a nuisance
  • Finches
  • Wrens

Here is just an abbreviated list of the birds that you get during the winter months. I focused mainly on the most common birds that are around during the winter. Depending on the area in which you live, you just may have different birds that also come around to your feeders.

Give birding a chance! This is a great time of year to put on a pair snowshoes and take a winter walk through the woods and see all the birds are busy during the winter months. Take advantage should the opportunity arrive!

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