4 Foods to Feed Birds in Winter

To attract more winter birds, add these best-loved options to your backyard menu.

Want to feed birds in winter, but not sure where to start? Here are four foods birds love that you should add to your backyard menu for winter. These foods give them the energy they need to make it through tough winter days and nights.

Five Tips for Feeding Birds in Winter

  1. Make sure you fill your backyard bird feeders daily if you can, preferably in late afternoon, to give the birds a boost before they roost for the night. A few days of empty feeders and birds will quickly disappear for better foraging areas. (They have to go where the food is, after all!)
  2. To get the most winter bird traffic in your backyard, place your feeders at varying heights and locations, including in or near trees and shrubs, where birds won’t be as vulnerable to predators.
  3. Provide a variety of foods to attract the greatest number of species.
  4. Offer suet to birds all winter long. This is probably the best way for birds to get a quick energy boost and build fat reserves for long, cold nights.
  5. Brush snow and ice off feeders during and after storms to keep the food accessible to hungry birds.

More Resources for Feeding Winter Birds

photo credit: Michelle Cwalina (B&B reader)

1. Suet

The easiest way to provide suet to birds is to get it straight from your butcher. Put the beef fat in a mesh bag (an empty onion bag works) or a wire cage feeder. If the real deal is a little intense for you, birds will devour premade cakes from the store, too.

Attracts: woodpeckers (pictured), chickadees, titmice, jays and nuthatches

photo credit: James Miller (B&B reader)

2. Peanuts

Whether you serve peanuts in the shell or out (just avoid the salty kind), put them in a tube or tray feeder. If peanuts get pricey, mix in some black-oil sunflower seeds. Change peanuts frequently in rainy or snowy weather to prevent mold.

Attracts: jays (pictured), woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and house finches

photo credit: Godsgirl_madi/Pixabay

3. Thistle

Fill a mesh tube or sock feeder with thistle (Nyjer) and soon your backyard will be a winter finch haven. The small needlelike seed is a perfect snack for tiny songbirds.

Attracts: goldfinches (pictured), pine siskins, house finches and common redpolls

photo credit: Matthew Bolyard (B&B reader)

4. Black-Oil Sunflower Seed

A seed preference test performed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology showed that the majority of feeder birds prefer high-fat black-oil sunflower seed. It’s simple to serve, too—spread it right on the snow-covered ground or fill up a tube, tray or hopper feeder.

Attracts: cardinals, grosbeaks, finches, chickadees (pictured) and nuthatches