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Bird feeding in the winter

2015 November 23
by Marilu Lopez Fretts
B. Bowen Carr via Birdshare. Bullock’s Oriole in New York! Photo taken in Columbia County, NY on January, 11, 2009. Flickr link:

Photo by B. Bowen Carr via Birdshare.
Bullock’s Oriole in Columbia County, NY.

Winter represents a difficult time for birds in many parts of North America. Cold days with long and even colder nights, barely any vegetation, no insects to eat… What can you do to make their lives easier?

One thing you could do is set up a backyard feeder and enjoy bird watching from home. If you live in an apartment, try to place a hanging birdfeeder from a window or balcony, if possible.

What do birds eat in the winter months? Non-migratory birds shift their diets to seeds and fruits to survive. So this is your opportunity to set the table and invite your feathered friends! The question is: what to feed them?

The commercial mixtures that you can find in most supermarkets may have a high percentage of “filler seeds,” but you can create a low-cost mixture yourself. Black-oil sunflower seeds are a favorite of most species. They are nutritious, high in fat, and easy for small birds to crack.

Dried corn and white proso millet are favored, also. Some birds, like cardinals, appreciate safflower, while other birds enjoy peanuts.

Other high-energy foods birds appreciate are peanut butter or suet (beef fat). Beef suet is available in most supermarkets.

Other birds such as robins, bluebirds and waxwings, prefer fruits. Offer them sliced apples, oranges, and other fresh fruit or frozen berries. You can place fruit on a plate or shallow bowl on a platform feeder or on the ground. If you feed the birds dried raisins and currants, make sure you soften them by soaking the dried fruit in water first.

For more information about bird feeding this winter, visit Feederwatch.

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Gav permalink
    November 25, 2015

    What’s your advice for putting hole peanuts out any ideas welcome

    • Marilu Lopez Fretts permalink*
      November 30, 2015

      HI. Thank you for your interest in feeding birds! Peanuts are high in energy and protein for your birds. Yes, you can offer peanuts shelled or in the shell. These can be raw or roasted peanuts, but avoid salted peanuts or peanuts that have been roasted with any coatings or flavorings. Here is a link where you can find more specific information about feeding birds:

      Enjoy your day!


  2. Gav permalink
    November 25, 2015

    Also any links are welcome

  3. December 4, 2015

    Thanks for the post. I always make my suet with crisco lard. I will try the beef suet. Should it be prepared in any way before use? Thank you

    • Marilu Lopez Fretts permalink*
      December 10, 2015

      Hi Kathy,
      Glad you will try beef suet. You might find some good recipes online. Be aware that you should only make it available if the temperature outside is below 50 degrees. Above that, the beef suet will need rendering.

      Best wishes.


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