How to Be a Friend to Winter Birds wallacegardencenter

How to Be a Friend to Winter Birds

Birds often return to the same area year after year. Set up your yard now to be bird-friendly, and you’ll have feathered friends who stop by each year!

Birds are a key part of a flourishing ecosystem, and by providing them with all they need to survive during the winter, we can do our part to contribute to their health. Plus, they’re just fun to watch! You can even get the whole family involved—make a checklist of what birds you see, and have someone look up facts about each bird. Inspiring people to connect with wildlife helps to connect them with Mother Nature as a whole! Attracting birds to your yard is all about giving them what they need: food, shelter, and water—all of which are more difficult for the birds to come by during the winter months.

bird with food in its mouth upside down

Feeding Birds in Winter

Different birds eat different types of food, so putting out a few kinds will encourage various types to stop by your yard. For example, perching birds love munching on black oil sunflower seed, whereas ground-feeding birds prefer suet, which is made from calorie-dense beef fat. But of course, ground-feeding birds will be more than happy to eat up the seed that spills from feeders! Birds not only have a preference for types of food, but they also have a preference for style of bird feeder.
  • Nuthatches and woodpeckers love to hang from the sides of thistle or peanut tube feeders. The design of tube feeders helps to prevent spoilage since it keeps the food dry.
  • Chickadees, finches, and redpolls will be found at tube feeders with perches or at hopper feeders—these are sturdy house-shaped feeders with a roof.
  • Blue jays and other large birds like open-platform feeders best. Some open-platform feeders hang from tree branches, while others stand on the ground, like a dining table inviting the blue jay and its friends to stop for a bite!

Water Stations for Birds

Water can be difficult to come by for birds in the winter, but placing a birdbath in your yard will be much appreciated by these feathered friends! Heated birdbaths or birdbath de-icers—a disk you plug in and set in the birdbath—will keep the water warm enough so it doesn’t freeze over.

Providing Shelter for Birds

The perennials you plant in your landscape are more than just beautiful—they provide valuable shelter, food, and nesting grounds for birds. Native plants in particular will help to attract birds since these animals are adapted to relying on those native plants for survival. Chokecherry, viburnum, oak, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, big bluestem, and prairie dropseed are just a few perennials native to Iowa. Try to include multiple native plants to help create suitable habitats for birds in the winter and all year long. While nothing beats trees as homes for birds, birdhouses can also provide valuable shelter for them. Choose a house that’s made of natural wood, avoiding anything with bright colors. The unnatural materials used for colorful, shiny birdhouses draw attention from predators, and birds know to stay away from such a place. Once you do select your neutral-toned birdhouse, place it in a spot that gets some wind cover. You can also place nesting materials, like dry leaves, feathers, and moss, on your yard outside of the birdhouse for the birds to collect to add to their home.

Many birds return to the same areas year after year, and if you provide them with everything they need to survive the winter, they’re sure to stop by your yard! At Wallace’s, we have birdseed, feeders, de-icers, and many other things that will help you attract birds to your backyard this winter.

Back to blog