Best Tips How You Can Help the Birds in Winter

As the days grow shorter and the air turns crisp, nature begins its annual transformation, preparing for the colder months ahead. For many of us, winter signifies cozy evenings by the fire, snowflakes glistening, and the holiday spirit in the air. But let’s not forget the often-overlooked residents of our outdoor spaces – the birds. As winter approaches, they face a challenging season filled with cold temperatures, scarce food sources, and a constant struggle for survival.

Winter time for bird feeding

This is the perfect time to start thinking about how we can make a difference in the lives of these winged living beings. Creating a bird-friendly environment in your backyard during winter is not only a valuable endeavor but also an enriching and rewarding hobby that connects you to nature. It’s a reminder that while we enjoy the warmth and comfort of our homes, the avian wildlife around us needs our support to brave the winter.

In this post, you’ll discover a wealth of information on how to create a bird-friendly environment in your backyard, attract a variety of bird species, and provide essential care during the challenging fall and winter months. Whether you’re an experienced bird enthusiast or new to the world of birdwatching, this post offers practical advice, tips, and a deeper understanding of why your efforts matter in supporting avian wildlife.

Birds bring joy and beauty to our lives, and by helping them in your backyard, you not only make their lives easier during harsh seasons but also gain an enriching and rewarding hobby that connects you to nature.

Cardinal in a snow

One of the beneficial inhabitants of our gardens, songbirds, face numerous challenges during the cold, icy winter months. The snow-covered ground and ice-coated tree branches hide from their view the harmful insects, larvae, and weed seeds they feed on, which are essential to their usefulness. Cold weather demands a greater quantity of energy resources, and if they don’t have access to enough food, they can easily perish. We can assist them by scattering sunflower seeds in handcrafted bird feeders, hanging cracked nuts on tree branches, providing dried fruits, or even making birdseed cakes.

But let’s see in detail what we could do to help the birds during the winter season.

Facts about winter bird feeding

It is well known that some bird species do not migrate to warmer southern regions during the winter. These birds are joined by flocks of birds from even harsher northern areas. However, when the freezing winter arrives in our region, with the ground covered in snow and tree branches encased in ice, they struggle to find food and face a significant challenge for their survival. We can assist them by establishing artificial feeding sites equipped with bird feed.

Wild animals can only establish stable and self-sustaining populations where they find their basic life necessities, including food, shelter, breeding, and resting places. During winter, reproduction is not a current concern; instead, acquiring food becomes one of the most pressing needs. When the weather extremes, particularly heavy snowfall, or the depletion of natural food sources make the situation unfavorable, birds seamlessly change territories and continue to fly without any hindrance. Even a songbird the size of a sparrow can cover a distance of 1,000 km within 24 hours, maintaining this speed continuously for several days. Therefore, the purpose of winter feeding for songbirds is not to ensure their survival but to lure them closer to us. This serves two fundamental purposes:

  1. The sight and close observation of birds provide an extraordinary experience for both children and adults, inspiring us to preserve the natural environment.
  2. The presence of birds contributes to biological defense against weed seeds, insects, and small rodent pests gathered in the vicinity of feeding sites.

For birds, feeding also comes with the advantage of avoiding migration, which often involves perilous journeys, allowing them to weather the winter in our country through supplemental feeding.

At such feeding sites, we can attract overwintering birds to our gardens using a variety of methods and types of food. The size and shape of the feeders can vary, limited only by human imagination. The crucial aspect is that they serve their purpose and adhere to certain guidelines.

Golden rules of winter bird feeding

  • The most important winter bird feed is unsalted, unroasted, high-oil content black (industrial) sunflower seeds, as well as other small-seeded grains. Additionally, raw (unsalted, unroasted) nuts, peanuts, and other similar items can serve as potential winter bird feed.
  • Unsalted or boiled bacon, suet, and “titmouse balls” (a mixture of melted suet, fat, lard, margarine, or butter with sunflower seeds that solidify when cooled) can provide excellent energy supplements for birds.
  • Feeding with fruit, particularly affordable apples, is also recommended. Pierce these on the branches of bushes and trees when possible. Some pieces can be placed on the ground to make them accessible to birds during and after snowfall, while food scattered on the ground remains inaccessible to them until the snow is cleared. Apples are favored by virtually all soft-billed birds that consume insects, making them a great help to unusual wintering birds such as the Brambling.

blue tit, bird, bird feeder
Blue tit on “titmouse balls”

Feeder types – does it matter?

What types of feeders should we use? There are plenty of options to choose from these days. You don’t need to buy the most expensive, fanciest feeders; simpler solutions are often better. In fact, you may not even need to spend on a feeder because you can scatter the food on the ground or on the windowsill. However, there’s nothing more beautiful than when birds visit the feeder you made yourself day after day.

Take a look at my DIY bird feeder I set up in my backyard.

DIY bird feeder
My DIY bird feeder with European goldfinch

Bird feeders in your window and backyard

If you wish to feed birds from your window, you have various options to choose from. In a family house, you can even scatter food on the windowsill. You can create different types of window feeders, from simple boxes to baskets and feeders with improvised roofs.

Windowsill bird feeder

You can feed birds using containers hanging from the branches of trees in your garden, made from plastic boxes, baskets, or even a hollowed-out pumpkin. You can also fill a mesh bag with small holes with food and let the birds peck the seeds through it.

Feeding birds in parks and larger gardens

In parks and larger gardens, setting up a bird table is a good idea. This provides a complete “all-inclusive” experience for the birds. Only tits and nuthatches can theoretically enter the closed bird table, but other birds can feed on the ground below the feeder. Birds of all kinds can easily access a bird table with open sides. I have seen great spotted woodpeckers visiting bird tables on numerous occasions.

Bird table feeder

For robins, you can set up a separate “mini-feeder” a bit farther away from the main feeder since they prefer quieter places and are somewhat shy.

Feeding stations

The use of a feeding station is not part of the usual feeder types and is best suited for large parks and extensive areas. The advantage is that it can comfortably accommodate larger birds like pheasants, and if a predator tries to catch a bird at the feeder, there’s enough space for the bird to escape. Another advantage is that, when properly constructed, it provides protection from the vagaries of the weather: the wind can’t blow the seeds away, the roof prevents rain or snow from getting in, and it provides shelter for the birds.

Bird feeding station

Does it matter what type of feeder you use?

It doesn’t matter what type of feeder you use; hungry birds don’t care about appearances. The consistency of feeding is the most important thing for them.

If you want to create a completely bird-friendly garden, it’s a good idea to make feeders from natural materials, preferably wood, which can also serve as decoration in your garden during the summer!

Is it allowed to feed birds on your urban apartment window or balcony?

There are no strict rules against it, but it should be done in a way that does not create pollution on public property, your neighbors’ windows, balconies, etc. So, it’s allowed to feed birds, but with some restrictions.

How to feed birds in winter?

How should we feed birds? What should we feed them? Where should we feed them? Many questions arise, but one thing is certain: there’s no simpler and more captivating way to convince anyone of the importance of bird conservation.

There’s nothing more beautiful than watching small birds perched on branches on winter mornings, waiting to land on the feeder filled with food.

When should we start feeding birds?

Feeding birds should not be based on the calendar. It should depend on the weather, so it should only be done when necessary. Never start in September, especially when considering the warm, pleasant autumns we’ve had in recent years. Early feeding is harmful, as it takes away natural food sources from the birds. For example, in the autumn, titmice can still find plenty of insects for themselves and do not rely on our help. If someone starts feeding early in the autumn, they will immediately see blue tits and sparrows at the feeder, but this is entirely natural. This only demonstrates their quick adaptability and resourcefulness.

blue tit, bird, tit-7264808.jpg
Blue tit on a feeder

With all these considerations in mind, it is advisable to start feeding in November or December, depending on the weather, and continue regularly throughout the winter. During harsh cold spells and heavy snow, increase the daily supply. If you stop feeding the birds in the middle of winter, especially in bad weather, you do more harm than if you had not fed them at all. Birds accustomed to the feeder’s surroundings may come from a larger area, and if you miss 1-2 days, the birds may not find enough natural food, potentially leading to their deaths.

Can we feed birds occasionally?

If we can only feed them once or twice throughout the winter, it is allowed because it provides some extra help to the birds in the vicinity. To attract a larger number of birds to a well-functioning (continuous) feeder, it takes some time.

What should we feed them?

The feeders are usually first discovered by great tits and blue tits. Sunflower seeds are best for them, but they can also be fed with various other foods. If you have limited suet, you can mix it with melted lard and serve it as “birdcakes” after it has cooled down. You can also give them bacon rinds, or hang a piece of raw meat on a tree branch. Blue tits like pumpkin seeds and walnut fragments. They also enjoy apples, which can be cut into small pieces and offered.

Seed-eating birds like greenfinches, chaffinches, siskins, bullfinches, etc., can be fed sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, oats, canary seed (available in stores), millet, hemp, and niger seed. You can also put out pieces of apple for them.

bird, zob, feeding

In terms of food for insect-eating birds (e.g., blackbirds, robins), many types of kitchen scraps are suitable, but you can also make a special mix for them. This mix includes grated raw carrots, cheese, fresh curd cheese, finely chopped apple, and pieces of cooked or raw meat. Mix it all together and place it out, loosening it up. You can also give them apple peels and cores.

Is it okay to feed birds with bread or bread crumbs?

For most songbirds, it’s not recommended because bread can sour quickly due to moisture and potentially harm them. However, it’s safe to give bread scraps to pigeons, doves, and seagulls.

Tips and information to create a bird-friendly backyard

Here are some tips and information to help you create a bird-friendly space:

  1. Provide Shelter:
    • Birdhouses: Install birdhouses to offer shelter and nesting opportunities. Make sure the houses are suitable for the bird species in your area.
    • Brush Piles: Create natural brush piles or plant dense shrubs and trees to give birds a place to hide from predators and harsh weather.
    • Roosting Boxes: Some bird species, like chickadees, use roosting boxes during cold nights. Consider installing these for winter shelters.
  2. Offer Food:
    • Bird Feeders: Provide a variety of bird feeders with different types of seeds, suet, and mealworms. Different bird species have different dietary preferences.
    • Clean and Regular Refilling: Keep your feeders clean and refill them regularly. Birds rely on a steady food supply.
    • Heated Bird Baths: Install heated bird baths to provide birds with access to water, which can be hard to find in freezing temperatures.
  3. Choose the Right Food:
    • High-Energy Foods: In colder months, birds need high-energy foods like suet and black oil sunflower seeds. These provide the necessary calories for staying warm.
    • Fruits and Berries: Plant fruit-bearing trees and shrubs that provide natural food sources for birds.
  4. Minimize Pesticides:
    • Use bird-friendly gardening practices by minimizing the use of pesticides and herbicides. This ensures the birds’ safety when foraging for insects.
  5. Maintain Habitat:
    • Keep your yard as natural as possible with diverse plant life. Native plants attract local bird species and provide natural food sources.
    • Leave seed heads on plants for winter foraging.
  6. Reduce Window Collisions:
    • Birds can often collide with windows. Use decals, bird tape, or other window treatments to reduce such accidents.
  7. Monitor and Record:
    • Keep a bird journal or take photographs to record the species you observe in your backyard. This can be a rewarding and educational hobby.
  8. Educate Yourself:
    • Learn about the local bird species in your area, their migration patterns, and their specific needs during the fall and winter seasons.
  9. Join Birding Communities:
    • Connect with local or online birding communities to share observations, get advice, and learn from experienced bird enthusiasts.
  10. Be Patient and Respectful:
    • Remember that attracting birds to your backyard may take time. Be patient and enjoy the process.
    • Respect the natural behaviors of the birds and avoid disturbing them.

The vast realm of the internet holds a treasure trove of fascinating blogs dedicated to bird feeding, offering a wealth of insights and tips for avian enthusiasts. Websites like and delve into the intricacies of creating bird-friendly environments, providing valuable advice on choosing the right feeders, selecting optimal bird feed, and observing various species.

Are there any differences in feeding the birds in winter in North America and in Europe

Yes, there are differences in feeding birds in winter between North America and Europe. While the fundamental principles of bird feeding and providing support to birds during the winter season are similar in both regions, there are variations in terms of the types of bird species, local preferences, climates, and plantings. These differences result in distinct approaches to bird feeding and the specific bird species that are commonly targeted in each region.

Here’s a table comparing bird-feeding practices in North America and Europe during the winter season:

AspectNorth AmericaEurope
Common Bird SpeciesCardinals, Blue Jays, Chickadees, American Goldfinches, WoodpeckersEuropean Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Sparrows, smaller garden birds
Local PreferencesRegional variations based on bird species’ preferences. Different preferences in Eastern, Western U.S., and Canada. For example, the Eastern U.S. might prioritize attracting Cardinals, while the West might focus on Western Bluebirds.
In Canada, an emphasis on winter-hardy species like Black-capped Chickadees may be seen.
Varied bird feeding practices in different European countries and regions. Local bird preferences and garden bird choices influence the choice of food and feeders.
For instance, the UK may focus on feeding Robins, while Scandinavia may cater to species adapted to harsh winters.
Climate and Seasonal VariationsVaries widely from frigid winters in the north to milder winters in the south. High-energy foods like suet and black oil sunflower seeds are emphasized in harsh winter regions.Climate varies from milder winters in the south to colder winters in the north. Winter feeding is essential in regions with prolonged, severe winters. In milder areas, the focus may be on migratory birds.
Native PlantingsIncreasing emphasis on planting native species to provide year-round natural food sources for birds.Gardens may include a mix of native and non-native plants. The balance varies by region and culture.


Bird-feeding practices in North America and Europe are both rooted in a deep appreciation for avian wildlife. While the principles of bird feeding are universal, the specific feeders, food choices, and target bird species can vary significantly based on the unique bird populations, regional climates, and local preferences. Both regions share the common goal of providing support for birds during the winter and enjoying the beauty of these feathered visitors in their backyards.

Q&A: Helping Birds in Your Backyard During Winter

Q1: Why is it important to help birds in our backyard during the winter period?

  • A1: Winter brings harsh conditions for birds, including freezing temperatures and limited food sources. By providing them with food, shelter, and water, we can help them survive these challenging months.

Q2: What types of birds can we expect to see in our backyard during the winter?

  • A2: Common winter backyard visitors in North America might include Cardinals, Chickadees, Blue Jays, and Woodpeckers. In Europe, you may see Robins, Tits, Sparrows, and various smaller garden birds.

Q3: How can I create a bird-friendly environment in my backyard during winter?

  • A3: You can create a bird-friendly environment by setting up bird feeders with appropriate winter foods, providing clean water, and offering natural shelters like evergreen trees or shrubs.

Q4: What are the best foods to offer to winter birds?

  • A4: High-energy foods like black oil sunflower seeds, suet, unsalted nuts, and dried fruits are excellent options. Avoid salted or roasted foods and provide fresh water daily.

Q5: What type of bird feeders should I use in winter, and where should I place them?

  • A5: Various types of feeders work well, including hopper feeders, suet feeders, and tube feeders. Place them in sheltered spots, away from predators, and refill them regularly.

Q6: Are there any precautions to consider when feeding birds in winter?

  • A6: Ensure that the food and water you provide stay fresh and clean. Prevent the buildup of ice in water sources, and clean feeders regularly to prevent disease transmission.

Q7: How can I attract a variety of bird species to my backyard during winter?

  • A7: Offer a mix of foods to appeal to different species. Some birds prefer seeds, while others like suet or fruits. Providing a diverse menu will attract more birds.

Q8: Can I create a safe haven for birds during winter without feeders?

  • A8: Yes, you can by planting native trees and shrubs that offer natural food sources and shelter. Creating a bird-friendly landscape is beneficial year-round.

Q9: What can I do to support birds’ nesting and breeding success during winter?

  • A9: Providing birdhouses can encourage winter roosting and nesting. Clean and maintain the birdhouses before winter to make them inviting.

Q10: Is it safe to feed birds bread and leftovers during winter?

  • A10: It’s best to avoid feeding birds bread and human leftovers, as these may not provide the necessary nutrition. Stick to bird-appropriate foods to support their health and well-being.

In conclusion, helping birds in our backyard during the winter period is a rewarding and essential activity. As the colder months bring challenges for these feathered friends, our efforts can make a significant difference in their survival and well-being. By providing a bird-friendly environment with suitable feeders, food, water, and shelter, we can attract a variety of bird species and create a safe haven for them. It’s crucial to use proper bird feed, maintain feeders and nesting sites, and be mindful of their specific needs to ensure a successful and enjoyable birdwatching experience while supporting avian wildlife in our midst. It does not matter if you are an experienced bird enthusiast or new to the world of birdwatching, this winter bird-feeding guide offers valuable insights and practical tips to connect with nature and make a positive impact on the lives of our backyard birds.

We wish everyone a beautiful bird-feeding and feeder-making experience!

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