4 Foods You Should Feed Birds in Winter

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

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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 winter birds the energy they need to make it through cold days and nights.

woodpecker at suet feederCourtesy Michelle Cwalina (B&B reader)
Red-bellied woodpecker

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 suet cakes from the store, too.

Attracts: woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, jays and nuthatches

Check out the best foods for attracting woodpeckers.

blue jay flies away from peanut feederCourtesy James Miller
Blue jay

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, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and house finches

Check out the best foods to attract nuthatches to your yard.

goldfinch eating nyjer seedCourtesy Susan Ferency
American goldfinch eating nyjer seed

3. Thistle

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

Attracts: goldfinches, pine siskins, house finches and common redpolls

Choose the best finch feeders to attract more finches.

chickadee rests on hand holding sunflower seedsCourtesy Matthew Bolyard

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 and nuthatches

Psst—these are the 10 types of bird feeders you need in your backyard.

Five Tips for Feeding Birds in Winter

Fill Feeders Daily

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!) Learn more ways to help birds in winter.

Spread Feeders Around

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. Free up your backyard feeders for your favorite songbirds by learning how to discourage bully birds.

Offer More Than One Type of Food

Provide a variety of foods to attract the greatest number of species. Check out the best foods you aren’t feeding birds yet.

Give Birds Suet for Energy

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. Say so long to the store-bought stuff and whip up a fresh batch of your own suet. Here’s how to make suet for birds.

Clean Off Snow and Ice

Brush snow and ice off feeders during and after storms to keep the food accessible to hungry birds. Here’s how to attract birds and wildlife in extreme weather.