winter-birding-and-birdwatching-1

Getting the family outside and enjoying nature can be tough in the winter. While the cold may put a damper on many activities, birdwatching is actually a great winter pastime. While it is true that some birds migrate to more tropical locales in Mexico and South America for winter there are plenty of bird species that stick around or only travel as far as they need to find food.

Supplies

While not strictly necessary having a few good supplies can make your birdwatching experience more enjoyable and informative

  • Warm comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes
  • Binoculars
  • Guidebook
  • Camera

Winter Birds

While there are many species that can be found in winter there are a few common species that you’re almost sure to see if you enjoy birdwatching.

  • Black-capped and Carolina Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmice
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Downey Woodpecker
  • House Finch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Carolina Wren
  • American Crow
  • Blue Jay

These are just a few you might see if you decide to give birdwatching a try! It’s also not uncommon to see larger species like Barred Owls, Eastern Screech Owls, or Red-tailed Hawks.

Where to Find Birds

While habitat varies widely from species to species there are a few places you’re likely to find birds. “Edge areas” or where clearings and forests come together like the borders of lawns, river banks, or roadsides are good places to spot birds. These edges typically offer abundant brush and shrubs for birds to hide in and sometimes sources of food. You’ll also find many birds visiting fruit trees or bushes that still have old fruit hanging on them from the summer months.

You can also frequently find birds in areas where there are large amounts of standing dead wood. Dead trees provide food in the form of insects and often have large cavities birds will use for nesting or getting out of the harsh winter weather.

Feeding Winter Birds

If you’d like to see more birds in your yard, feeding can be a great option. To help birds thrive in winter it’s a good idea to choose feeds that are high in fat. Suet blocks are a great option for many bird species because of their high-fat content. They are also easy to set up. You can also use millet, black oil sunflower seeds, peanut butter or peanuts, or a combination of feeds.

When selecting a feeder it’s important to choose one that has a lid or cover to keep the feed dry during snow or rain. You should place your feeders in areas where the birds are sheltered from severe winds and other predatory birds. Placing feeders in the middle of a cleared area can make smaller birds an easy target for hawks and owls.

You should also routinely clean your feeder and avoid letting any moisture or mold build up. Just like people, birds need clean food in order to stay healthy.

It’s extremely important that once you begin feeding birds during the winter that you don’t suddenly stop. They’ll come to rely on you for food and stopping during the colder months could hurt their chances of surviving the winter.

Other Ways to Attract Birds

Adding a heated birdbath to your yard can also help birds especially if you’re experiencing a lot of below freezing temperatures.

Adding nesting boxes to your property can also encourage birds to visit even in winter. Though they won’t be nesting in winter many birds will use nest boxes as night time roosts.

If you want a good general feed to attract a variety of birds, look for options packed with black oil sunflower seed. To attract a specific type of bird, research seed developed with that variety in mind. Remember, bird feeders with dry seed should be cleaned monthly.

The experts at Homestead Gardens trust premium brands like Lyric Wild Bird Food and Cole’s Wild Bird for their own feeders!

Winter Birding Resources

  • The Macaulay Library
    Set up by Cornell University the Macaulay Library has thousands of video and audio recordings of different bird species. Whether you’re having trouble identifying a bird song or just want to have a listen it’s a great site to visit.
  • Maryland Audubon
    The Maryland Audubon has a number of citizen science projects you can get involved with if you enjoy birding. They’re a great way to help birds in your area!
  • Homestead Gardens
    Our experts at our Davidsonville and Severna Park locations are happy to help you determine the best feeders and shelters for your winter bird experiences this year. Stop by and see us!

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