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How to Prepare Your Wild Birds for the Winter


All Spring, Summer and Fall we have enjoyed watching countless birds flock to our feeders.  With winter coming quickly into the picture, it is time to change how we feed our delicate feather friends.


Feeding preferences will change as the weather starts to get cooler.  To help out little friends stay healthy during the colder winter months, you will need to make a change in what you are offering the birds to eat. 


For the first timers, you will want to use foods that the birds in your area will be attracted to.  Check with your neighbors to see what foods they have had success with.  Do a little online homework to see what bloggers in your area have been using.


The Black-Oil Sunflower Seed is very popular with most birds for a winter fare.  The shells are easy for the birds to crack, revealing the oil-rich, high-protein rich inside.  This seed will attract smaller birds like finches and chickadees.  Sparrows will always be attracted but be sure to check to see that these guys have not crowded out your desired birds.  In addition, these seeds attract cardinals, juncos, nuthatches and towhees to name a few. 


Hulled Sunflower Seed – The hulled seed is easier for the smaller birds to get to without it being taken away from them buy more dominant birds or from a herd of raucous sparrows.


Depending on where you live, you will have a different variety if birds.  In my neighborhood, I have numerous hummingbirds along with a large assortment of finches.  Even the Robin had been making its appearance my area.


Peanuts, dry roasted and shelled are another good choice for your feathered food court.  Look for the broken shells and broken peanuts or ask your local retailer if they have any “rejects” that you would gladly take off their hands.  The peanuts will provide a health high protein dish for some larger birds such as the woodpecker, jays, nightingales as well as nuthatches and many more.   


Suet is a great choice for adding needed fat in the birds’ diet for extra energy during the winter months.  A suet feeder will be necessary or if you are on a budget, a mesh bag that your onions come in will also work just fine.  Suet works best when it is warm, so an early introduction will be best before temperatures start to get into the freezing mark. To keep the herd of sparrows away from your suet, use the pure suet, the white rendered fat kind. Do not use any infused with peanuts, seed or mixed fruit. The sparrows and squirrels do not like this but your other birds, the woodpeckers, nuthatches and other desirable feathered winter inhabitants.  Use a decoy feeder away from your suet and use the cracked corn for the sparrows!


Good Mixed Seed-Unless you live in the Desert Southwest, avoid using birdseed that has a high amount of the larger round red seeds called Milo or Sorghum, cracked corn or wheat which is usually reserved for pet birds.  Be a smart buyer and select only those seeds which have a majority of the seeds your feathered feeders will desire.  This will result in much less waste around the birdfeeder and less fecal mess for you to clean up. A good seed mix will have mostly black-oil sunflowers seeds, cracked sunflower seeds, some cracked corn, some white proso millet and perhaps even some peanut hearts.  If you are adventurous, buy you seed separately and mix it according to what your feathered diners like.


Nyjer/thistle seed-This type of can be a bit more expensive but it will be readily accepted by the smaller finches.  Since this is a much finer seed, you will need a thistle feeder that has the smaller seed holes.  With this feeder the smaller birds can cling to the side of the feed and pull the seed thru the smaller openings.


Do not add an excessive amount to the feeder.  In wet weather the seed can get wet and go moldy or rancid.  The excess seeds can also fall to the ground and possibly germinate creating some excess and undesired yardwork for you.  This issue has reportedly been minimized as all thistle seed is supposed to have been sterilized prior to entry into the United States and Canada.


Safflower-A favorite food of the northern cardinal, this white, thin shelled conical seed can be eaten by a variety of birds but does not seem to attract blackbirds and ever pesky squirrels.   As always, your individual results may vary.  Try to keep this type of seed on dry ground as seeds that become soggy will become inedible.  This safflower seed can be purchased in bulk on-line. 




Cracked Corn-Some of your larger visitors like the jays, doves, blackbirds, quail, the marauding sparrows and even the cute and furry squirrels will be attracted to this delicacy.  Be aware, that in certain areas, you may also attract turkeys, deer, elk, moose and even caribou.  You could use your cracked corn as a decoy for your squirrels to draw them away from the good bird seed. 


Squirrels love cracked corn or whole corn.  Make it a bit of a challenge for the squirrel to get to the feeder and enjoy the entertainment!! 


Beware, you may never know what you might attract!




Mealworms-This batch of feed is not for the squeamish, even though mealworms are not slimy, in fact, they are not even real worms but actually a larval stage of a beetle (Tenebrio molitor)!  Place a shallow ceramic dish in or near your bird feeder. It will provide and excellent snack for your visiting feathered cliental.  If you buy a larger bag, you can keep them in the old-fashion rolled oats and feed them as needed.


In addition to adding bird feeders, you can also add plants that the wild birds can feed off of such as Asters, Rudbeckia, Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Globe Thistle, Goldenrod (Soladago), Sedum, Zinnia Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) and Silphium.  These plants can all be great native plants you can use to create a natural habitat for the wild birds in your area.


Be sure to send us pictures of your wild bird feeders and seed/food combinations and share your story with us at:




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Posted 2016-08-19T22:48:47+0000  by Rick_HD_OC Rick_HD_OC