Attracting birds in the winter | beginner steps to backyard birding

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Are you on the hunt for easy winter nature connections?  Making your backyard and balcony inviting to local birds is one of the simplest ways to bring more nature into your family’s life.  Get your kids involved and make your backyard a safe and inviting place for birds in the winter.

Come wintertime it can be hard to get outside.  It sometimes takes longer to get your snow pants on and scarves wrapped than the actual time you spend outside!

And then there’s the temperature.  Sure, you can do all you can to dress appropriately to play in the snow, but when you go outside and your nostrils freeze together, it’s just no fun!

However, that doesn’t mean you have to disconnect with nature when you can’t actually get out into it.  Instead, use these tips to bring nature closer to you and enjoy it through an insulating pane of glass until those temperatures are a bit more manageable and inviting.

an empty bird feeder on a winter day

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How do you attract birds in the winter?

One of the simplest ways to attract birds to your backyard is to make sure you have winter appropriate bird foods in the yard.

Some people recommend putting the bird feeder out in fall so that the birds have an opportunity to find the feeder before the snow arrives.  You may also try sprinkling the seeds on the snowy ground to help birds find the feeders.

Fresh water can be hard for birds to find in the winter.  Consider adding a heated birdbath to your yard or adding a heating attachment to your current birdbath.

Provide places for birds to find shelter and to forage for their own food.

  1. Plant some evergreens and dense bushes for shelter
  2. Grow local fruit or berry trees for birds to peck away at over the winter
  3. Leave an area of your yard wild with tall grasses and fallen debris for shelter, nesting material, and scavenging
  4. Don’t pull all your garden or flowers out in the fall.  Let them overwinter in your yard providing homes for bugs and food for the birds.

A super easy tip is to grow a patch of Sunflowers in the summer.  Come winter, leave the sunflowers standing and the birds will eat those seeds throughout the winter, and sun themselves on the tall stalks.

Lastly, you may want to consider winterizing a bird house or providing birds with a roosting box.  A good winter roosting house will offer birds a safe place to gather and stay warm over the winter.


What to feed birds in the winter

Birds benefit from a higher fat diet in the colder season.  You’ll frequently see suet offered as a winter food because of its high calorie content.

Good foods to feed birds in the winter are:

  • black oil sunflower seeds
  • peanuts
  • nyjer seed
  • peanut butter
  • suets

You’ll notice many DIY feeders use suet.  You can either purchase bird suet blocks or you can render your own suet from fat purchased in the meat department of the grocery store.

I haven’t tried rendering my own suet.  And to be honest, I’m not really interested in trying it.  But, if you are, here’s a tutorial on rendering your own bird suet from animal fat.   Really, there are so many bird suet options available that I plan to just go purchase a few of those when we get around to making our own winter feeders.

You may also decide to try making a feeder with peanut butter.  Do purchase the natural, no sugar-added variety.  Those sweet birds are sweet enough already!


Where to hang your bird feeders

A few tips:

Put your bird feeders in a sheltered location.  The feeder will be less likely to get covered in snow if it is protected overhead by large tree branches or a wide roof overhang.

Also, if the intention is to enjoy the birds, you’ll want to be able to see this feeder from your window.  Consider which windows you can see easily out of, have seats nearby, or consider making yourself an inviting nature sit spot close to a window.

Depending on the type of seeds  you’ll be using, consider what is underneath the feeder.  Will the birds be leaving piles of shells on your sidewalk or for your toddler to play with in her sandbox?

Prevent birds from hitting your windows by using decals, decreasing reflection, placing feeders very close or far away from the window.  The Spruce has a very detailed article on keeping bird-window collisions at a minimum.


Getting your kids excited about backyard birding

Making bird feeders with kids is just one activity idea in a whole process of learning about, helping, and observing birds in your backyard.

First, you and your children could do some local bird watching:

  • What birds are frequenting your neighborhood?
  • Are they eating any particular seeds or hanging out in certain areas?
  • What are your neighbors feeding the birds?
  • Can you identify any of the birds you see around your backyard?

You could do some research into the types of birds found in your area and their preferred foods.  This research might involve some internet searches, using bird field guides, or even a trip to the local natural history museum if you’re really in need of some indoor wintertime diversions.

For any of you living in Canada, here’s a list of the top 10 most common winter birds.

You’ll need to all spend some time looking around and deciding what ingredients and style of winter bird feeder would be best for your children’s skills (if you’re going to craft your own), the local birds, and your winter weather (for example, suet will melt if it’s overly warm where you live).

Lastly, try setting up an indoor birdwatching station.  If you’re really wanting to encourage the learning, you could show them how to identify the birds and record their birding in a nature journal.


You don’t have to wait until the winter to start inviting birds to your yard.   Plan your planting in the spring with winter foraging and shelter in mind.  But, come winter when you’re all looking for some nature time, try some of these easy tips above.

P.S.  If you have any other tips for birds in the winter, please feel free to share them in the comments below.  And, don’t forget to check out this post full of easy DIY bird feeders for the winter and any time of the year!


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