How do I attract the songbirds to my garden?

Is it possible to stop grackles stealing all my seed? How do I … ? Can I … ?

Traditionally, feeding the birds has been a winter hobby. How many of us simply put out bread, table scraps and fat drippings for the birds when we were children? Now we have a dazzling array of seeds and feeders available to entice birds to our properties year round.  We probably get more inquiries about bird feeding than almost any other subject. The following information will, we hope, answer the questions you were just about to email us with.

Winter bird feeding tips

Winter bird feeding quickly illustrates the importance of feeder placement. Positioning feeders where we can see them easily from the comfort of the house is important. For most people this is the kitchen/breakfast area. By seeing the feeders easily and often we get more enjoyment out of watching the birds, miss less, and are more quickly aware of when feeders need attention (filling, clearing, cleaning, moving out of reach of squirrels).

  • Put out high-energy foods such as suet, peanuts, black sunflower seeds, meal worms.
  • Make sure feeders are filled especially before snow- falls and extremely cold weather.
  • Clear snow and ice from bird feeders and heated baths so that birds can access the food and water.

Feeding the most common winter birds

Black-capped Chickadee, Mourning Dove, Dark-eyed Junco, Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker, American Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, White-breasted Nuthatch and House Finch.

  • Most birds will eat black oil sunflower seeds
  • Mixed seed (that contains black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn and millet) in a platform feeder for Mourning Doves, juncos, cardinals and Blue Jays
  • Niger seed in a distlefink feeder (tube-type with special small holes for “thistle” seed) for goldfinches and Redpolls should they arrive
  • Shelled peanuts in a peanut feeder or suet in a suet holder for woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches

Different types of feeders also encourage or discourage birds with different feeding habits. Feeders that birds cling to will attract “clinging” birds (chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, woodpeckers) and will not accumulate snow. Feeders with flat trays/surfaces attract “ground feeder” types of birds (cardinals, Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, juncos) and need to be covered or the snow will accumulate on them.

Although Dark-eyed Juncos are occasionally seen on platform feeders providing white millet, they really prefer ground feeding. Scattering millet in the shelter of cedar hedges and evergreens attracts them. If such protection is not available near your feeding station, temporary shelter can be provided using brush piles – a good use for the Christmas tree!

Water is also very attractive for birds in freezing weather. Consider investing in a heated water feature for the winter.