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Winter Bird Feeding Tips: Ensuring Avian Survival and Enjoyment for Bird Enthusiasts

Understanding the varied feeding patterns of birds can make a significant difference in their well-being.  Some birds, like chickadees and cardinals, are year-round, while others are more seasonal.  For species like red-breasted nuthatches, redpolls, pine siskins, crossbills and grosbeaks, scarcity of seeds can lead them far from their usual ranges in search of food.

Diverse Food Choices Planning for winter bird feeding involves three primary categories of food: large seeds, small seeds and suet.

  • Large seeds: Black-oil sunflowerStriped sunflowerSafflowerPeanutsShelled corn, Cardinal mixes (sunflower, safflower and peanuts.)
  • Black oil sunflower seeds and cardinal mixes are the most popular choices, comprising about 80-90% of seed usage in Minnesota. They offer high energy content and appeal to a wide range of winter birds, including cardinals, blue jays and finches.
  • Peanuts: Attractive to Black capped chickadees, nuthatches, woodpecker, and blue jays.  Even cardinals sometime like peanuts.
  • Seed mixes: Cracked corn or milo are generally avoided due to their popularity with natures bullies: house sparrows and starlings. Millet mixes cater to species like dark-eyed juncos, mourning doves, and various sparrows. Niger seed (thistle) is a staple for goldfinches, redpolls, house and purple finches and pine siskins.  Make sure to get a special feeder with smaller holes if you choose to include thistle.
  • Suet: A Nutritional Powerhouse: Suet, suet mixes and peanut butter are vital for offering high-energy nutrition. They can be in various forms, from wire mesh feeders to open platforms. 

Selecting the Right Feeder

Finding the ideal feeder for your yard involves trial and error.  Consider platform or tray feeders (covered or uncovered), hopper-style feeders, or cylindrical feeders for specific seeds. Various designs, including screen-bottomed platforms and DIY options like two-liter pop bottle feeders will meet different bird’s preferences.

Optimal Feeder Layout 

As winter sets in, placing feeders closer to the house can provide easier access, especially in snowfall. Using clusters of feeders with a variety of offerings, along with a designated ground feeding site, provides a diverse buffet for our bird friends. Make sure that the feeders are placed close to protective tree cover, which allows birds to seek refuge between visits.

Safety Measures for Feeder Placement

To safeguard birds from potential predators, place feeders at least ten feet away from concealing cover. Feeders placed near windows increase collision risks. Consider using stick-on window feeders, or relocating the feeders.

By implementing these winter bird feeding tips, bird watchers can create a haven for our avian friends, fostering not only survival, but also enhancing the birdwatching experience in the frosty months ahead.

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