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Invite Birds to Your Yard

Birds are wonderful to watch, especially in winter. Now is the time to take action. It's getting cold outside and birds are looking for a place with food to stay warm. Here are a few tips.

Black-capped Chickadee
A bird feeding station will bring the wonders of wildlife to your home.

Would you like to get closer to nature? Put up a bird feeder!

Birds are wonderful to watch, especially in winter. Birds provide bright flashes of color, wonderful songs and curious movements. It’s a fun activity for everyone in the family.

Now is the time to take action. It’s getting cold outside and birds are looking for a place with food to stay warm. Here are a few tips:

Get a Variety of Feeder Boxes. The traditional feeder box mounted on a pole will attract most birds; this is the best feeder to get if you get only one. You can attract a wider variety of birds by adding other feeders. Nylon-covered wire cages filled with suet will attract woodpeckers and chickadees (shown). Hanging feeders will attract finches.   

Keep It Safe. Mount feeders at least 5 feet high to discourage cats and other predators. Trees or shrubs should be nearby to provide shelter. Keep feeders at least 10 feet away from branches that may be used as jump-off points by cats and squirrels.

Get A Front-Row Seat. Place the feeder near a window where you can sit and watch the birds. Place the feeder within 3 feet of, or more than 30 feet from a window. Birds that strike a window from a short distance are less likely to get hurt.

Provide Good Food. Black-oil sunflower and white proso millet seeds are highly desired by birds, rich in calories and provide the best value. Cracked corn and safflower are useful additions to a mix. Niger thistle is often used in hanging feeders. Avoid mixes with wheat, millet, oats and rice. Birds pick through these mixes, making a mess.

Give Them Water. All creatures need water to survive. Choose a bath with a rough surface, gentle slope, and no more than 2–3 inches deep. Add branches or stones that emerge from the water to let birds drink without getting wet. Keep the bath full. Thermostatically controlled heaters will keep water from freezing.

More Tips. Buy seed in bulk to save money. Make a commitment to feed birds all winter or don’t feed them at all. Clean the feeder regularly. Close the feeder temporarily if hawks become a threat. Baffles may be placed on poles below feeders to deter squirrels. Weight-sensitive perches on “squirrel-proof” feeders can deter squirrels and blackbirds. Go to for more tips.

Written by , Extension Horticulturist. North Dakota State University.
Sources: Craven, S., D. Drake and J. Nack. 2007. Bird feeding: Tips for beginners and veterans. Publ. 3176. University of Wisconsin-Extension.
Project FeederWatch. 2018. Cornell Lab of Ornithology. https://feederwatch.org.
The photo was made available under Creative Commons licenses specified by the photographer: Greg

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