Tips for Feeding Wild Birds in Winter

What to Feed

You may be trying to cut back on fatty foods after the holidays, but in the winter, that's just what birds need. Thistle, black oil sunflower seeds, suet and peanuts are good choices.

If you want to get fancy with your feed, check out the interactive feature on the FeederWatch website: Select a region, feeder style and type of food, and see what species you're likely to attract. Or pick the species you're seeing the most of and find out what they like best.

And don't forget to serve drinks. "Water is fantastic to provide in the winter," Grieg says. If you don't have a heated birdbath, just go break the ice off the top of the water and refill it — the birds will thank you.

What about concerns that you shouldn't start feeding the birds if you're going to take a break? Grieg says they won't starve if you go on a ski trip. "They are using many different food sources. They're not as dependent on feeders as we think they are."

Help All the Birds

Want to help more than just the individual birds at your feeder? Sign up for Project FeederWatch and start collecting data. By counting the birds that you see in your backyard, you can contribute to a 30-year-long data set and help scientists track how bird populations are changing across the country. The season runs through April 2, so there's plenty of time left.

"No one biologist can keep track of bird populations across the continent," Grieg says. "All the people looking at birds already can help us do that.

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