Attracting Birds in Winter

Bluebirds on Snowy Branch
Doxieone Photography / Getty Images

Winter is a great season for attracting birds, and attracting birds in winter can be easier than in any other season if you provide what the birds need to survive the coldest months.

How to Attract Birds in Winter

Cold temperatures, severe storms and scarce food supplies make winter the harshest season for wild birds, and bird mortality is high all winter long. Backyard birders who help meet birds' needs during the winter will be rewarded with a diverse flock of winter visitors.


Feeding birds is the easiest way to attract them to your yard in any season. Adding the best winter bird foods to your feeders when the temperatures drop will give birds adequate energy to survive even the worst weather. Foods high in oil and fat, such as suet, peanuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter and Nyjer are the most popular choices, but it is important to tailor your backyard buffet to the exact needs of your winter flock. In many areas, for example, hummingbirds may overwinter and will need a fresh supply of nectar.


Snow and ice may be frozen water and birds have no problem melting it to drink, but fresh, liquid water will readily attract many backyard birds in the winter. Add a heated bird bath to your yard to provide that water, and you'll be surprised with many birds that wouldn't normally stop at feeders. You can opt for a fully heated bird bath or add a heater attachment to your existing bird bath to keep the water fluid even in freezing temperatures. The bath should be kept fresh and clean to avoid spreading illness, and it should be properly filled so the heater does not malfunction.


A cozy place to roost will keep your backyard birds secure and comfortable even in the worst weather. Bird roost boxes, nesting pockets and other winter bird shelters are essential to protect small birds from frigid breezes and dropping temperatures. For even more protection, place these winter shelters out of the way of northern winds or heavy snowfall, and offer birds a source of winter nesting material to use as insulation. For more natural shelter, build a brush pile or plant evergreen trees and shrubs that will offer protection to birds throughout the winter.

Keeping Winter Birds Safe

Just as backyard birds may be more desperate during the lean times of winter, so are predators such as feral cats and backyard hawks. Illness can also devastate roosting winter flocks, and a sudden cold snap can freeze small birds. The best steps to protect your backyard birds are to provide good food, water and shelter, but you can also…

  • Clean feeders and bird baths regularly to prevent mold or bacteria that could spread disease.
  • Position bird feeders to protect backyard birds from hawks, and be sure small birds have nearby plants or a brush pile for quick shelter if needed.
  • Keep cats indoors and take steps to protect backyard birds from stray or feral cats. You can watch for paw prints in the snow to learn if cats or other predators are visiting your yard and threatening your bird feeders.
  • Use window clings or other easy methods to prevent bird window collisions so your backyard birds can flee from predators without risking other injuries.

Quick Tips to Attract Winter Birds

While offering food, water and shelter and taking steps to make your backyard safe for birds will attract a good winter flock, there are other quick steps you can take to ensure you have a steady stream of winter visitors.

  • Start early in the autumn to prepare your yard for winter so birds can learn it is a safe place long before they are in desperate need.
  • Leave leaf litter in place in your yard for the food, water and shelter it can provide overwintering birds.
  • Choose bird-friendly landscaping that includes a selection of sheltering evergreen plants as well as plants that will provide fruit for a natural winter food source.
  • Offer a variety of foods at your backyard feeders to attract the greatest number of bird species to your buffet.

By providing for birds' basic needs as seasons change, it can be easy to attract birds to your yard in winter so you can enjoy their company even when the weather is at its worst.