Attracting birds to your backyard in the winter

Birds look even more beautiful in the winter, their colorful feathers contrasting with the blanket of snow. Dozens of different winter birds can stop by your feeder for a visit — cardinals, woodpeckers, finches, jays, sparrows, titmice and chickadees, to name a few.

Tips and tricks for backyard birding in winter

  • Use a covered feeder. Open tray feeders are great in the summer, but in the winter, snow can bury the feed. Covered fly-through platform feeders are ideal. WoodLink offers a great selection of covered feeders – many of which are also designed to keep squirrels away! Check out the selection in Homestead Gardens’ wild bird department.
  • Place the feeder near shelter. Keep your bird friends out of the cold winds by placing your feeder near the house. This will also help keep them visible for you to enjoy. Also consider placing them near hedges to offer cover from predators.
  • Choose the right food. Winter birds like seeds. The best foods to offer them have a high fat or oil content that will give them a boost of energy for winter survival. Try black oil sunflower seeds (hulled, to avoid the mess of shells on the ground), hulled peanuts, thistle seed, suet mixed with seeds or fruit, and millet seed.

Another fun thing about winter birding: tracks! Even if you don’t see your bird friends, you’ll see evidence of their antics in the tracks they leave behind in the snow.

Identifying bird tracks

According to Audubon, the first step in identifying bird tracks is getting your bearings. Are you in your own backyard or on a city sidewalk? Is there water nearby? Use a field guide to identify the types of birds that frequent your habitat. Two other clues:

The bird’s gait

  • Hopping (tracks arranged in pairs, right next to each other): goldfinches, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice and cardinals.
  • Skipping (like hopping but more staggered): song sparrows, American robins and snow buntings.
  • Walking or running: grouse, gulls, ducks, mourning doves, raptors and starlings.

The shape of the steps

  • Standard tracks: Three toes in the front and one in the back. These could be sparrows, cardinals, jays or finches.
  • Game bird tracks: The hind toe is so small, the track might not be visible. These tracks belong to grouse, pheasants, turkeys and ptarmigans.
  • Webbed tracks: An outline between the three front toes means you’ve found duck, swan, goose or gull tracks.
  • Zygodactyl tracks: Two toes in front, two toes in back. These belong to owls, woodpeckers, parrots and roadrunners.

At Homestead Gardens, we’ve got everything you need to set up a feeder in your yard. Visit us today and start watching those winter birds stop by for a bite!

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