How to Create Winter Shelter for Birds

Updated: Nov. 29, 2021

Birding experts and readers offer their best tips to create shelter and protect birds from the snow, wind and cold temperatures.

cardinal in a snowy evergreen treeCourtesy Ann Oliver
A female cardinal tucks into the evergreen branches to the side of the bird feeders, patiently waiting for her turn.

“How do I create ‘winter thickets’ where birds can roost or take cover during the cold?” asks Jeff Jackson of St. Louis, Missouri.

It’s a good idea to create winter shelter for backyard birds, and there are several different ways you can do it. Evergreen trees and shrubs are ideal, especially if you avoid trimming off the lower branches. Hedges or groups of native shrubs work, too; dogwood, sumac and native roses are good examples.

For a quick start, build a brush pile in a quiet corner. Stack fallen branches, garden cuttings, discarded Christmas trees and other plant material in a crosshatched pattern to create an inviting shelter for many kinds of birds.

Readers also offer their best tips to provide winter shelter for birds.

Block the Wind with Cornstalks

“I gather cornstalks from my garden and weave them through loose wire fencing stuck into the ground around my feeders. They block the wind and predators,” says Glenn Orchard of Amherstburg, Ontario.

Let Birds Roost in Hanging Baskets

“I turn my hanging flower baskets into ‘birdie hotels’ for roosting on cold nights,” says Karen Cofer of Gainesville, Georgia.

Put a Roof on Feeders

“You can provide extra winter safety at your feeders by attaching plexiglass to the roofs,” says Richard Snyder of Emmaus, Pennsylvania.

Protect Birds with Branches

“In winter, we attach branches cut from cedar trees to our feeders to offer added protection,” says Sue Bogart of Topeka, Kansas.

Leave Up Nesting Boxes

I offer shelter for birds wintering in my backyard by leaving up roosting boxes and nesting ledges at all times of the year,” says Gloria Meredith of Harrington, Delaware.