Audubon Guide to Winter Bird-Feeding

Feeders: Woodlink, LTD. Seed: Red River Commodities
Feeders: Woodlink, LTD. Seed: Red River Commodities
Feeders: Woodlink, LTD. Seed: Red River Commodities
Feeders: Woodlink, LTD. Seed: Red River Commodities
Feeders: Woodlink, LTD. Seed: Red River Commodities

Audubon Guide to Winter Bird-Feeding

A world-renowned ornithologist shows how, with the right combination of feeder and food, your backyard can be a refuge for birds and a stage for watching their colorful antics.

By Steve Kress
Published: November-December 2010

More than a hundred bird species supplement their natural diets with foods offered at feeders. They often rely most heavily on feeders in winter, when food is scarce. Additionally, some species will take advantage of backyard refueling stations during spring and fall migrations; others will stop by while nesting during the summer. Selecting a specific feeder design and a variety of foods can set the table for a greater diversity of birds. Choosing more than one will prevent crowding at your backyard buffet. Keep birds coming back with three essential ingredients: the right mix of quality seed and other foods, a source of fresh water for drinking and bathing, and ample cover from native plants. Follow this guide and watch the birds flock to your feeders.

1. Tube feeder

If you hang just one feeder, this should be it. Choose a model with metal ports around the seed dispensers to deter squirrels. Hang it at least 5 feet off the ground, and 3 feet (or 30-plus feet) from a window to avoid bird collisions.

Seed types: black oil sunflower, mixed seed, safflower, peanuts

Birds: Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, goldfinches, siskins, purple and house finches

2. Hopper feeder

With these feeders you can keep an abundant supply of seed dry and ready for visiting birds. The weight of the arriving birds triggers the release of seeds. Position this feeder on a pole about 5 feet off the ground, or hang it from a tree branch.

Seed types: safflower, sunflower, cracked corn

Birds: attracts all the species that visit tube feeders, plus larger birds like cardinals, jays, grackles, red-winged blackbirds

3. Suet feeder

Hang suet in mesh onion bags or purchase a cage feeder. You can make your own suet "pudding" by grinding suet and adding seeds. Create homemade suet feeders by packing the mixture into the crevices of large pine cones.

Seed types: suet and bird puddings

Birds: woodpeckers, titmice, nuthatches, chickadees; occasionally wrens, creepers, warblers

4. Thistle feeder

These feeders make seed available only to small-beaked finches. Hang them from a tree or place on a 5-foot pole near other feeders.

Seed types: nyjer (a.k.a. thistle) seed

Birds: goldfinches, redpolls, pine siskins

5. Ground feeder

A simple screen-bottomed tray that typically sits several inches off the ground or on a deck. Some have covers to keep out snow; others may have wire mesh to keep out squirrels and large birds like crows. Place at least 10 feet from trees or shrubs to give birds a chance to escape predators.

Seed types: mix of cracked corn, milo, millet; also sunflower seed, mixed seed, wheat, oat

Birds: doves, juncos, sparrows, towhees, goldfinches

Magazine Category

Author Profile

Steve Kress

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine

Comments

Is there a way to keep rats

Is there a way to keep rats away from the food that has dropped? Or is there a bird food that rats don't enjoy? Unfortunately, we have a rat problem in the neighborhood and we were told that bird feeders just aid the problem.

Whenever I put out peanuts or

Whenever I put out peanuts or food for the N. Red Cardinals that are among various birds flying in my back yard NYC it's always either the squirrels or the sparrows that get it all first; when the cardinals attempt to get to it, the sparrows just hedge them out. How to feed Northern Red Cardinals?

Put out safflower seeds, the

Put out safflower seeds, the squirrels and bully birds dont generally like them but cardinals do

Whenever I put out peanuts or

Whenever I put out peanuts or food for the N. Red Cardinals that are among various birds flying in my back yard NYC it's always either the squirrels or the sparrows that get it all first; when the cardinals attempt to get to it, the sparrows just hedge them out. How to feed Northern Red Cardinals?

The importance of keeping

The importance of keeping bird feeders clean: http://www.healthywildlife.ca/?p=2412

Birds feeding at the feeder

Birds feeding at the feeder on the porch is so entertaining even though there is plenty of feed for them in the wild.

We have two feeders hanging

We have two feeders hanging from our porch for at least three weeks and not a bird has arrived. Any suggestions? One is a hopper type the other a tube filled with black oil sunflower seeds. So the offering is fine. Thank you

Move feeders to a more

Move feeders to a more protected/shrubbed/tree area. You might succeed later in shifting them back to the porch, after they start showing up

and feel more secure !

There are pictures. You have

There are pictures. You have to click on the number 1, or possibly on the picture of the tube feeder, and that takes you to 5 pictures of the other types of feeders, one per page with arrows to navigate to the next picture each time. Hope this helps.

House sparrows are here to

House sparrows are here to stay. They were brought here by well meaning people without knowing what the consequences would be. Not feeding them will do nothing to reduce their population. They are cute little birds and people should feel free to feed them and enjoy them. If you wish to deter them you can get an "Upside down" feeder where the birds need to hang upside down to eat. The sparrows can't do that but chickadees and nuthatches do so with ease. But please don't hate the sparrows. It not there fault - they're just trying to get by like the rest of us. That being said, don't let the little buggers build a nest is your birdhouse!

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