Hi everyone! I am updating this and sharing it for all my new followers! Winter is a GREAT time to start bird watching! If you like to stay in where it is warm, you can watch out your windows. If you like to get out and get moving in the winter, birds are great motivators. I can’t believe how many times I braved the cold last winter to find birds! Feeding your back (and front) yard birds serves 2 purposes. The first reason is that our feathered friends need our help to survive the winter because their normal sources of food are gone now. The second reason to feed birds is to see birds. You can attract many different birds to your feeders based on what kinds of food you fill them with! You can watch the slideshow on my site homepage to see most of the birds we typically see in the wintertime in Western MA. The good news is that bird watching is free. The bad news is that feeding our feather-babies can be pricey. There are different seed mixes out there to choose from, and some are better than others. To make it even more interesting, there are also different kinds of FEEDERS that attract different birds.

If you have been feeding your flock all year, your birds will be used to you and your feeders. You may see more of those same birds now that food is so scarce in their natural habitats. They may even try to chase the other birds away from your feeders. If you are just starting to feed the birds, it may take a week or 2 for them to come as they will watch and see if it is safe to visit them. Again, winter is a good time to start feeding and building your flock as beggars can’t be choosers. Birds can be finicky the rest of the year LOL!

So, what kinds of birds like what kinds of foods and feeders? A good rule of thumb with food is that you get what you pay for. For example, there are cheaper bags of bird food that are filled with millet, little round white seeds. Most of the songbirds will ignore this and you will attract a lot of House Sparrows with it. Ground feeders like Mourning Doves, Rock Pigeons and Dark-eyed Juncos may also eat this seed after the other birds toss it to the ground. The squirrels will usually help clean up the leftovers as well. I like to buy mixes that have seed and nuts and dried fruit in them.

So, which birds like nuts? We will start with our woodpeckers. I have Hairy, Downy, and Red-bellied woodpeckers that visit my feeders daily. (There are supposedly Red-headed Woodpeckers locally, but I have yet to see one anywhere.) Pileated Woodpeckers (think Woody Woodpecker) come to my yard, but rarely to my feeders. My woodpeckers will eat out of tube feeders, platform feeders, window boxes or off the ground. They can also eat off perch type feeders but have a harder time. Nuthatches, as you can guess, LOVE nuts! I have White-breasted Nuthatches visit all day long. Last winter, I had a ton of Red-breasted Nuthatches, but they have not returned to my yard this winter yet. I hope they do as they are SO cute! They can use all the feeders I mentioned, and they are neat to watch as they will eat UPSIDE down when perching! Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Northern Cardinals, and Blue Jays also all love nuts. In fact, when I want to hand feed my birds, my go to is shelled peanuts. These birds can access all the feeders except the Blue Jay. He is too big to perch on my tube or perch feeders. Blue Jays absolutely love whole peanuts in the shell, and it is fun to watch them take them and bury or eat them.  

How about seeds? My American Goldfinches, Purple Finches, House Finches, Pine Siskins and Northern Cardinals (especially) love Safflower seeds. They have amazing abilities to use their beaks to get the seed out of the shell. Safflower is not cheap, but when you factor in fact that squirrels are not fans of safflower, so they don’t steal it, the money is a wash. Chickadees and Titmice will also eat safflower. The chickadees will steal one and fly off to a tree, but the Titmice will let you watch them peck on the shell to get the seed while they perch on the feeders. All these birds will eat sunflower kernels and seeds, both shelled and unshelled as well. If you like your feeders on your deck, there is a deck mix that has a mix of these seeds and peanuts and pistachios. I use this because my birds love it, and there are not a lot of shells and mess to clean up. My Eastern Bluebirds and Carolina Wrens also love this mix!) You can also buy Nyjer or thistle seed for finches. This seed requires a special perch feeder as it is too small for other feeders. Sparrows, Chickadees, and Juncos also eat out of my finch feeders.

Some of the birds will enjoy dried or other fruit now, but it is hard to come by. I do not have luck with raisins. I will share more about this topic in a spring blog. For now, my advice is to go with the foods that have the fruit mixed in as it doesn’t freeze. Suet is a type of food that is made of lard and other ingredients that birds can eat year-round. It is not that expensive but be careful to get the kind that doesn’t freeze or melt (in summer). You can make your own too. There are suet feeders that look like cages and the birds perch on them. All the birds I see in the winter except the larger birds such as the Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, Common Grackles, European Starlings, Crows, and Robins visit my suet feeders. Robins never come to any of my feeders, and doves cannot perch but the others will devour suet if it is in a big enough feeder for them to perch on. I use a suet feeder within a cage set-up. All my birds will go into the cage and get to the suet, but larger birds and squirrels are kept at bay. I even had a Chipping Sparrow on my suet feeder this week and they are not common here at wintertime. Be careful as sometimes raccoons will come and steal the whole feeder if it is not attached well!

Who doesn’t love Bluebirds!? They are puffy and cute and always look like they are scowling LOL. My go-to choice for attracting these beauties are dried mealworms. There are special mealworm feeders, but my bluebirds will use any window box, house-type feeder they can go into, or platform-style feeder. Carolina Wrens cute and bossy little feather balls that LOVE mealworms AND suet! The Tufted Titmice also like the mealworms. Lastly, I need to share some love for our local waterfowl. I visit the ponds in both Fannie Stebbins and Forest Park and feed the ducks, geese, and swans now. There are SO many cool species to see wherever the ice is not totally frozen now. You can see the species I recently fed on my Springfield and Longmeadow pages. Wilbraham and Hampden have these birds too, but the places I usually see them are frozen over now. As for these birds, most people bring bread. This is not a great choice as it has little nutritional value for them. I buy duck food, but it can add up when you feed so many. Frozen peas are a good choice as they have lots of fiber. They will eat some other fruits and vegetables too. Be sure to cut grapes and other food into small pieces so they do not choke on them.  

I have included some pictures of the birds and feeders I talked about here. I would love it if you could comment below (and on my site if you are reading this on Facebook please) if you have success with other foods/feeders or questions. Thanks, Robin😊