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What To Feed Birds In Winter

By Harry RamosLast update: 2024-06-18

It's very good to feed birds in the winter due to the scarce natural food sources. However, not all food types are bird-friendly. If you are a newbie and have no idea about what to feed birds in winter, it's worth taking a glance at this list.

How To Determine The Right Bird Food For Winter Feeding?

Each bird species has its own favorite foods. So when picking bird foods for winter feeding, you should first determine which species will appear in your area and what they love to eat.

This frequently-underestimated step will greatly help you feed birds the right food with the least waste.

The most common winter birds in southern regions are warblers and hummingbirds. Northern winter birds are often red crossbills, evening grosbeaks, and pine grosbeaks.

Some other popular winter birds are cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers, jays, titmice, sparrows, and finches.

What To Feed Birds In Winter


Sunflower Seeds

What To Feed Birds In Winter

Ideal for: nuthatches, chickadees, finches, grosbeaks, and cardinals.

It's all good to feed birds either sunflower seeds or black oil sunflower seeds.

The primary differentiator between the two seeds is black oil ones are bigger in size and each seed is higher in calories, unsaturated fats, and proteins than regular, so they provide more nutrients.

But black oil sunflower seeds might be a bit expensive and not popular in some areas.

Feeding birds crushed seeds and sunflower hearts is recommended because it's mess-free while birds don't waste energy removing the husks.

Nyjer Seeds

What To Feed Birds In Winter

Ideal for: common redpolls, pine siskins, goldfinches, and Cassin's, purple, and house finches.

Nyjer seeds might be more expensive than other seeds, but many birds very much favor them. They contain a high enough content of oil and fat to provide birds with energy for keeping themselves warm during the winter.

Just one thing to note is Nyjer seeds are tiny in size, so you should put them in a thistle sock or thistle feeder. Don't use a standard bird feeder because seeds will fall straight through.

Safflower Seeds

What To Feed Birds In Winter

Safflower seeds are a great alternative to sunflower seeds as they provide equal essential nutrients and many birds love them.

When feeding birds safflower seeds, don't put them on the ground during rainy days because they're prone to soggy and inedible.

Mixed Seeds

What To Feed Birds In Winter

Mixed seeds are a safe choice if you don't know how many bird species are in your area and what they are.

Any mixed seeds are great for winter bird feeding, except those with lots of filler, milo, wheat, oats, and dyed seeds in them.

It's best to opt for mixed seeds that contain a huge amount of peanut hearts, white proso millet, cracked corn, and sunflower seed.

Peanuts & Peanut Butter

What To Feed Birds In Winter

Ideal for: house finches, siskins, woodpeckers, nuthatches, house sparrows, greenfinches, tits, blue jays, and chickadees.

Peanuts are a great food source with high content of fat and protein.

It's best to use shelled fresh peanuts. But if you don't have this version at hand, try the no-shell peanuts or unsalted ones sold for human consumption.

If peanuts are expensive in your area, mix them with more affordable bird-friendly seeds or use peanut butter instead.

Remember to crush peanuts before feeding birds.


What To Feed Birds In Winter

Ideal for: yellow-rumped warblers, mockingbirds, waxwings, bluebirds, and thrushes.

You can use bruised fruits to feed birds; they aren't picky eaters. Plums, pears, apples, and oranges are some good options due to their nutrient-rich and high water content. They also contain simple sugars that are friendly to birds' digestion systems.

Suet Balls

What To Feed Birds In Winter

Ideal for: wrens, woodpeckers, tufted titmice, ruby-crowned kinglets, pine warblers, nuthatches, chickadees, cardinals, and blue jays.

Suet balls are rich in protein and carbs that are important for birds during the winter.

You can easily find them in most feed stores. Just remember to remove the nylon mesh casing of the suet balls before feeding to avoid injuring birds.

Or, you can do a simple homemade version using beef fats or bacon mixed with a variety of seeds, cheese, oatmeal, dried fruit, and nuts. Then, solidify them in the refrigerator.

To feed birds suet balls, put them in a dedicated suet feeder or a mesh ball.


What To Feed Birds In Winter

Ideal for: The American Robin, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees.

Mealworms are divided into two types: live mealworms and dried ones. Dried mealworms are easier to store and feed while live ones are more nutritious.

So, the choice is up to you.

Cracked Corn

What To Feed Birds In Winter

Ideal for: quail, doves, jays, blackbirds, and sparrows.

Most birds love cracked corn. This food is affordable and easy to find at any agricultural centers or wild bird stores.

Cracked corn doesn't contain much oil but is rich in fiber and protein - making it a great food source for backyard birds during winter.

But take note that squirrels love this food, too. If you want to prevent them from stealing food, choose a squirrel-proof bird feeder.

White Proso Millet

What To Feed Birds In Winter

Ideal for: Cardinals, juncos, towhees, doves, native American sparrows, and quails

Millet is known as a wonderful source of calcium, protein, phosphorus, and magnesium for many birds. It's easy to digest and particularly can reduce stress in birds in the periods like reproduction, weaning, or molting.

White proso millet can be in spray form or in seeds.

If you buy white proso millet seeds, put them in a tubular feeder. On the other hand, hang sprays on a tree branch or from a bird table to make them easy to find and attract more birds.

Cereals, Cheese, And Bread Crumbs

What To Feed Birds In Winter

Ideal for: pheasants, doves, and pigeons

All types of cereals are good for birds as long as they're not coated with sugar or marshmallows. You should crush them using a rolling pin or soak them in warm water before feeding birds because this prevents choking baby birds.

You can use porridge oats but avoid cooking because they could solidify around a bird's beak.

Regarding rice, you can use cooked or uncooked versions, brown or white, depending on the bird species in your area.

Bread is not rich in nutrients but will be a great source of fiber for birds. Feed them a moderate amount of bread crumbs; avoid overfeeding because they could cause birds to choke.

Cheeses are rich in protein but not all types are bird-friendly. Hard cheeses or those with low lactose are recommended. And remember to just feed a reasonable amount.


What To Feed Birds In Winter

Eggshells are even lower in nutrients than bread but are still recommended for birds because they contain high content of calcium, a mineral helpful for female birds during laying eggs.

Besides, their grit helps birds digest better.

Rinse eggshells thoroughly, air dry, then bake in the oven at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes. Use a rolling pin to crush them into tiny pieces. Put them in the bird feeder or scatter them on the grass during dry and warm days.


Hopefully, our list helped you know more about what to feed birds in winter and how. To get more information about bird-feeding and other relevant topics, please visit our blogs. Thanks for reading!

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