21 Simple Tips to Attract Winter Birds

Birds are even more beautiful in the midst of a few flurries. Here's how to attract them to your backyard!

Attracting birds in winter is easier than you might think! The most straightforward way to attract winter birds is to provide the foods they love and offer them safe places for them to take shelter as the air gets crisp and the temps fall. Birds are even more beautiful in the midst of a few flurries, so besides helping them get through what can be a tough season, you’ll also be able to enjoy their beauty in your own backyard.

Our readers shared some of their best photos of winter birds, and in each slide we’ve included a tip on how to attract each specific species to your backyard in winter. (Read more: How to Help Birds in Winter)

6 More Ways to Attract Winter Birds

1. Find the Right Feeder Spot: To get the most winter bird traffic, place feeders at varying heights and locations.

2. Get Crafty: Make a wreath or small container garden and decorate it with birds’ favorite foods.

3. Record It: Keep a bird journal. Jot down important details when you spot a new species.

4. Be Messy: Birds appreciate a little garden debris, like seedpods, leaf piles and fruit that fell from trees.

5. More Seed!: An extra large tray or hopper feeder holds more seed, which means you’ll fill it less often. It’s a win-win!

6. Think Shelter: Place feeders near trees and shrubs so birds can take shelter from predators.

The Joy of Bird Feeding

If you’d like to learn more about attracting birds in winter (and throughout the other three seasons), we highly recommend the book The Joy of Bird Feeding: The Essential Guide to Attracting and Feeding Our Backyard Birds  by Jim Carpenter. This book is the ultimate resource for backyard birders and includes what are the best foods to offer for the specific birds you want to see, how to deter unwanted backyard guests (like squirrels), and practical tips for identifying and attracting birds. Learn more and order a copy at: barnesandnoble.com

photo credit: Respah Mitchell (B&B reader)

1. Black-Capped Chickadee

A black-capped chickadee posed on a festive basket that I made last winter. —Respah Mitchell of Exeter, Maine

Attract with: willow, alder and birch trees for nesting

photo credit: Laurie Painter (B&B reader)
Barred owl

2. Barred Owl

This barred owl came to our yard for a few days last winter and hunted some of the red squirrels. I was able to get kind of close to it as it perched in this tree. Unfortunately, two days after I captured this shot, I found the bird next to a snowbank. I feel this photo is something of a memorial to it. —Laurie Painter of Silver Cliff, Wisconsin

Attract with: nest boxes in mature, dense trees

photo credit: Laurie Dirkx (B&B reader)

3. American Tree Sparrow

Some days, the winter skies are drab and full of snow clouds. Yet it’s on those dark days that mellow colors become rich, especially when there is no light to cause contrast as on sunny days. One dark day, this American tree sparrow momentarily perched on a fir branch. I set my camera to an aperture that allowed for a lot of light to enter, so it blurred out the background. I think the image has the feel of a painting. —Laurie Dirkx of Ontario, New York

Attract with: hulled and black-oil sunflower seeds, thistle, millet, peanut hearts

photo credit: Sally Harris (B&B reader)

4. Varied Thrush

I waited all winter for this noble varied thrush to come close enough for a portrait. The bird skirted the edge of my property, just outside of camera range, searching for food. It wasn’t until a rare snowfall covered its feeding grounds that it came to see what I was serving at my feeders. —Sally Harris of Carlsborg, Washington

Attract with: hulled sunflower seeds in ground feeders, suet, fruit, mealworms

Courtesy Karen Retter

5. Black-Capped Chickadee

This black-capped chickadee and its friends stopped by my backyard the day after a January snowstorm. —Karen Retter of Jerome, Michigan

Attract with: suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts

photo credit: Tammy Kay (B&B reader)

6. Blue Jay

I was astounded when all of these blue jays arrived on the  feeder at my property in Adams, Wisconsin. It was the middle of winter, and just as we were growing tired of white, this huge flock landed on the feeder, the ground and the trees. It was an overload of blue. I grabbed my Nikon and took this shot. —Tammy Kay of Richmond, Illinois

Attract with: peanuts, suet, sunflower seeds, fruit

photo credit: Lisa Hostetter (B&B reader)

7. American Goldfinch

Flurries had just started to fall. It was a gentle snow, perfect for photos. These goldfinches cozied up while they waited for a turn at my feeder. —Lisa Hostetter of Waverly, Missouri

Attract with: black-oil sunflower seeds and thistle (nyjer) in any type of feeder

photo credit: Robert Merrifield (B&B reader)

8. Eastern Bluebird

I captured this photo of a male eastern bluebird at the start of a winter storm. Cold weather creates some challenges for a bird’s survival, so I always do my best to provide the necessities—food, water and shelter. —Robert Merrifield of Amston, Connecticut

Attract with: mealworms or fruit in a platform feeder

Courtesy Donald Kaddatz

9. Evening Grosbeak

The evening grosbeak is one of the most dramatic winter finches to come from Canada to northeastern Minnesota’s coniferous forests. These colorful grosbeaks are a favorite at my feeders. Large flocks of them can be seen at the Sax-Zim Bog, which is north and west of Duluth. This species seems to have spread eastward about a century ago as box elder trees and other winter food sources became more plentiful. —Donald Kaddatz of Mora, Minnesota

Attract with: black-oil sunflower seeds in tube, hopper or platform feeders

photo credit: Leslie Abram (B&B reader)

10. Great Gray Owl

One morning, I heard crows cawing like crazy in my front yard. Knowing it meant a hawk or an owl was around, I ran outside in my housecoat and winter boots. Sure enough, a huge great gray owl flew across my driveway and landed on a fence post near the side of the road. I sat in a snowbank and took photos of it while it preened itself and stared right back at me. I love the intensity of its stare and the gorgeous patterns on its feathers. —Leslie Abram of Codrington, Ontario

Attract with: nest platforms in interior forests

photo credit: Matthew Cuda (B&B reader)

11. American Goldfinch

During the chilly months, American goldfinches travel in small flocks and dart around bird feeders. They also look for small seeds inside thistles, asters and grasses. It’s fascinating to watch a male goldfinch transform from bright yellow to
drab brown each year. —Matthew Cuda of Tobacoville, North Carolina

Attract with: native thistle and milkweed plants

photo credit: Noelle Sippel (B&B reader)

12. Blue Jay

Brilliantly colored blue jays are some of my favorite winter birds. This particular one looks like it’s trying to show off and say, “I’m going to pretend I don’t see you taking my picture, but here’s my good side.” —Noelle Sippel of Webster, New York

Attract with: oak trees and birdbaths

photo credit: Angela Rattinger (B&B reader)

13. Cedar Waxwing

I watched this cedar waxwing munch on some berries on a cold December day at Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan. —Angela Rattinger of Fruitport, Michigan

Attract with: native, fruit-producing trees and shrubs, like serviceberry, juniper, hawthorn and winterberry

photo credit: Jon Wood (B&B reader)

14. Northern Cardinal

On a below-zero day, I took this photo of a cardinal while I was in a blind at Camden State Park in southwest Minnesota. I learned to mimic the cardinal call, and within minutes of me whistling, they came and landed near the black-oil sunflower seeds I put out. —Jon Wood of Marshall, Minnesota

Attract with: sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanut hearts

photo credit: Rodger Boehm (B&B reader)

15. Cooper’s Hawk

A Cooper’s hawk stopped by our bird feeder last winter. All of the birds, squirrels and chipmunks quickly scattered. —Rodger Boehm of Winnetka, Illinois

Attract with: tree-filled habitats, forest edges

photo credit: Betsy Moseley (B&B reader)

16. Yellow-Rumped Warbler

This is one of my favorite photographs of a yellow-rumped warbler. It was winter and there were no leaves on my trees. The bird hopped from branch to branch, posing for me before it flew away. —Betsy Moseley of Zellwood, Florida

Attract with: bayberry, Virginia creeper and other native fruiting shrubs and vines

photo credit: Karen Osadchey (B&B reader)

17. Flicker

We love feeding and watching birds year-round at our home. Each winter, we
are lucky to have the most colorful flickers show up to gobble down the suet. —Karen Osadchey of Ridby, Idaho

Attract with: suet, safflower, peanuts, cracked corn

photo credit: Kimberly Miskiewicz (B&B reader)

Dark-eyed junco

I see dark-eyed juncos almost daily in my backyard. Although I know they can be found on much of the continent, it seems as if they are all right here in North Carolina! The juncos mostly feed on the ground, but occasionally they fly to the feeders or use my little birdbath. I think they’re adorable! —Kimberly Miskiewicz of Raleigh, North Carolina

Attract with: black-oil sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, cracked corn, thistle, safflower

photo credit: Kristi Gruel (B&B reader)

19. Anna’s Hummingbird

An Anna’s hummingbird spends winters in my yard. One day, I sat at the window waiting for the bird to light on the snow-covered butterfly bush. Eventually, the beautiful winter jewel obliged. —Kristi Gruel of Snohomish, Washington

Attract with: a mix of one part sugar to four parts water

photo credit: Rodger Hart (B&B reader)

20. Northern Cardinal

Many birds come to our feeders, but it’s always a thrill when a cardinal shows up. Mr. Cardinal certainly adds a bit of fire to a cold day! —Roger Hart of Lenox, Massachusetts

Attract with: backyard undergrowth and thickets for nesting

photo credit: Michelle Nyss (B&B reader)

21. Black-Capped Chickadee

I had been trying for a long time to get a nice picture of a chickadee—they never sit still for too long. One cold, beautiful day I stood under a tree and waited for a chickadee to come close enough. I love how sweet these birds look. —Michelle Nyss of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Attract with: hanging feeders and window feeders

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