What Do Birds Eat in the Winter?

Pet Food


February 28, 2022

Before winter arrives, many birds in North America migrate to warmer climates. But there are still a few that stay behind and have to search for food in a season when there are almost no fruits, plants, insects, and flowers to eat.

Although these birds store food from late summer to early fall for winter months, it is never enough, which is why you can offer them alternatives from your kitchen.

What Kind of Food Do Birds Eat in the Winter?

Birds are very clever, so despite the lack of fresh food in winter, they still find food when the temperature is below freezing. But finding food hidden in plants or under snow can be difficult, which is why people set up bird feeders for the birds. If you think of doing the same this winter, you should keep a few things in mind.

Before setting up a bird feeder, the first thing you should know is what do birds eat in the winter to offer them the right kind of food. Here’s a list of food items that birds eat in winter:

Plant Seeds

Fallen seeds can easily be spotted by birds in leaf litter when the snow isn’t too deep. Birds also perch on plants that keep their seed heads even in winter. Seeds are readily available in stores around the year, so you can get them for your bird feeder to save the birds in your area from the trouble of looking for hidden food.

Flying and Crawling Insects

There are no flying insects in winter, but birds can find dormant insects and larvae to satisfy their hunger. Various birds also forage in tree barks to find hidden insects to gain nutrition.

Dry and Fresh Nuts

Birds love nuts, but there aren’t any on the trees in winter. However, there are different types of fallen nuts that birds can find in winter, including pine nuts, acorns, and beechnuts. You can also put these nuts in the bird feeder for the birds of your area.

Small Animals

Birds of prey never go without food in winter due to their efficient hunting skills. These birds prey on mice, small fish, and other small animals to keep themselves adequately fed throughout the winter season.

Grain From Harvest

Agricultural fields are home to different kinds of birds due to the availability of grain. These birds can find plenty of grains from the fall harvest on the ground in winter. Doves and game birds are some of the many avian creatures that are most commonly spotted in agricultural fields.

Fruits on Trees

There is always leftover fruit from the fall harvest on trees and bushes. Since birds can’t find fresh food in winter, they take advantage of the excess food. Among all types of birds, bluebirds and robins love winter fruit the most.

Sap From Tree Barks

Woodpeckers love sweet tree sap, which is why they drill deep inside the bark of a tree to reach whatever sap they can in winter. Other birds use the sap wells created by woodpeckers to treat themselves to a little sweet juice.

Carrion and Carcass

Many animals don’t survive the harsh winter conditions. But their remains become the food source of various birds, including ravens and American crows. Some predatory birds also turn to the remains of a hunter’s kill instead of finding prey for themselves for a quick and easy meal.

How Do Birds Find Food in Winter?

Each type of bird prepares for the winter differently. Some store food in summer for the harsh winter months, while others rely on the insects and larvae they can find in trees to obtain the nutrition they need. Birds also travel from one location to the next once their food source has been depleted.

Urbanization has reduced the number of trees. Due to which, humans have stepped up to help birds with a new food source. A bird feeder can offer birds a safe and accessible food source. Birds that live in urban areas have become accustomed to feeding on bird feeders.

Since birds have a sharp memory, once they have fed from a bird feeder, they will remember its location and turn to it next winter as well. So, urban birds are more likely to look for bird feeders in the winter months instead of searching for other food sources.

Why Should You Feed Backyard Birds in Winter?

Winter is a tough time for birds as food sources are scarce. Even the food they can find is often low in nutritious value. Due to this, birds need more calories to survive. They also need to be well fed during the winter to prepare for spring mating. If birds are not well fed, their spring mating will go unsuccessful.

Humans can step up and help birds in this challenging time. With the help of bird feeders, you can offer birds the calories they need to survive the harsh and cold days of winter. You can also help them have a successful mating season in spring.

What Should You Put in a Birdfeeder?

To provide birds with the nutrition they need in winter, look for food with high oil and fat content. High energy food that you can put in a bird feeder includes sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet. You can also go for a nutritious seed mix to help your bird friends get all the nutrition they need from one food source.

Things to Remember When Setting up a Bird Feeder

Although you keep the birds fed in harsh winter months with a bird feeder, you can unintentionally spread diseases among them if you are not careful. It is one of the many things people don’t know about bird feeders. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you wish to help your feathery friends stay fed in the winter:

  1. Be Early

Put up your bird feeder in August or September instead of waiting for the arrival of winter. If you put up your bird feeder early, flocking birds will notice it and remember its placement later when they require food. If you set up your bird feeder in winter, it may fail to attract birds as they would have found an alternative food source by then.

  1. Keep it Stocked

Keep your bird feeder stocked. Once birds have learned the placement of the bird feeder, they will visit it whenever they require food, which is why it is so important to keep the feeder stocked. If your feeder runs out of stock, it could put the birds who did not look for another food source in distress.

  1. Avoid Accidents

Set up your bird feeder away from windows to avoid unwanted accidents. If the feeder is closed to windows, birds can fly into the glass and hurt themselves. But if the feeder is set up in a safe space, birds can feed easily without hurting themselves.

  1. Clean Regularly

Clean the feeder regularly to keep the birds who feed on it safe from diseases. If the feeder is not cleaned properly, a disease can spread to all the birds who feed on it. Fighting disease is harder for birds in winter since they have to spend a lot of their energy to keep warm. So, make sure that you don’t cause unnecessary trouble to your feathery friends.

Be sure to get your bird feeder ready before winter and put all the nutritious seeds and nuts in it for birds to enjoy on cold days.