While beach-goers, sunbathers and other nature lovers may need to put their hobbies on hold when fall and winter arrive, bird watchers can continue to observe their feathered favorites from the comfort of their own homes. Bird watching through fall and winter simply requires you to know which birds are likely to visit your backyard and to ensure your outdoor spaces are as inviting to them as possible, with the right food and feeders for every avian taste.
Not all birds fly south for the winter. Those who do are likely looking for their favorite foods — like nectar, insects or fruit — that aren’t usually available when the weather turns cold. Birds that eat seed are more likely to stay put and that means you can entice them to your backyard by serving their preferred varieties. Quality seed mixes and suet options are wholesome, nourishing fare for many kinds of birds that don’t migrate.
Here are some songbirds that you might see in your area this winter, as well as some suggestions for what to serve in order to tempt them to visit your yard:
* Goldfinches — Common throughout the United States, most goldfinches migrate, but in some areas, they will stay for the winter. During colder months their feathers fade to a yellowish green. These bright beauties primarily eat seed, so they’ll appreciate a premium blend of sunflower meats and niger seed, like Finch Friends by Cole’s. The finch mix is designed to work well in all kinds of tubular feeders, and is also appealing to purple finches and pine siskins.
* Blue Jays — Big, beautiful and blue, these jays range from Midwestern states to the East Coast and can be found year-round. Entice them to your backyard this winter by serving suet and sunflower seeds or a blend that features sunflower meats. They also love peanuts, so try incorporating this high-protein, high-fat offering into the fare you serve through a product like Natural Peanut Suet.
* Cardinals — Although the splash of a cardinal’s bright red plumage against the snow is iconic winter imagery, these birds actually stay year-round in their habitat of Midwestern to Eastern states. Cardinals are fans of virtually any kind of seed (except niger) and suet, so stock your feeders with a variety of seed mixes. Supply their favorite Safflower seed and you might see a cardinal at every feeder this winter!
* Chickadees — The black-capped chickadee is probably the most recognizable member of the chickadee family, and you’ll almost certainly see them in your backyard this winter if you live in the northern half of the country. Seeds make up about half their diet in winter, so they will spend a lot of time dining in your backyard if you serve a variety of seeds. They also need fat to weather winter cold, so stock up on suet, too.
* Eastern towhee — With plumage that resembles a robin, towhees occupy middle states and range east. Those that live in mid-Atlantic and southern states often forego migrating in winter. Towhees like seeds, berries, suet and small fruits, so look for options that incorporate more than one of their favorites, such as Suet Pearls from Cole’s. Serve this combination of nourishing sunflower meats and suet in a Mighty Mesh feeder or a Bountiful Bowl seed dish.
* Dark-eyed Junco — These small gray birds are found year-round in the northeast and north/central western states, but appear only in winter in the rest of the country.
While they primarily eat seeds and insects, they do appreciate some berries and suet when winter arrives, so entice them to your yard with Nutberry Suet Blend, which combines premium fruits, preferred nuts, whole kernels of sunflower meat, and insect suet kibbles. The blend also appeals to bluebirds and warblers.
Regardless of where you live and what birds you’re trying to attract, remember they need fresh water and roosting spots throughout the year. Be sure to serve a variety of food options in a range of feeders — from tubular to dishes — and you’ll be able to enjoy bird-watching throughout the winter.