Winter brings its own complications to the realm of feeding birds. To overcome these issues, I’ve come up with a list of suggestions for specific bird feeders that might be a bit more winter-friendly.
The best bird feeders for winter are those made of metal or with a metal roof and possibly base, those that can handle large quantities of food, varying forms of food, can keep food dry, and that is easy to clean and keep filled all winter.
In our household, we only feed birds extra during the cold months, because otherwise the place is a buffet of other insects, and I would prefer their focus be on pest insects. Once winter hits, it’s time to choose the proper birdfeeders.
Know Your Birds and Get Ready for Winter
Different birds migrate to different areas of the world in the winter. Some birds never migrate at all. And each species tends to have its favorite kind of food. So, you really should take stock of which birds frequent your yard before getting seed that doesn’t really fit the need. I touched on that in a previous article.
Clean, replace, or repair all of your feeders before heading into winter. You want them operational and ready to take on the damage snow and wind can bring. Be sure they are all secured and prepped.
You also may want to begin a transition into winter feeders in the fall. Why? Well, this allows you to pack your feeders with high-fat and high-energy sources of food. The birds will build up a layer of fat to help them survive harsh climate changes. Suet, sunflowers, and millet are excellent choices for fall foods.
What Are the Best Bird Feeders for Winter?
What you want is something that is weather resistant if possible. If it had a metal base and cover, that’s helpful for letting it last longer. A lot of metal is molded, too, so easier on the feet. It should be large capacity so that you don’t have to change it often. But, then again, you may want to build your own.
Be sure your feeders keep the food or seed dry. If moisture can get inside your seed reservoir, it can cause mold and bacteria to grow. This could be dangerous for the birds. You can also use all kinds of plastic plates or your own version of a large cover to place over your feeders that don’t have that protection on them. It not only protects the feeder from the snow but gives the birds shelter in it.
You also may want to invest in having more than one type of feeder in your yard for the winter. That way you can help out more than just one variety of bird species. So, let’s look at the ones that might be best, specifically for winter feeding.
Tube Feeders for Seed
There are generally made with polycarbonate and have several perches up the side of the tube, where the seed is placed. Try to find one with as few moving parts as possible (less chance of breaking). There are even some that are antibacterial and easy to clean.
Get something with a large capacity, but don’t go too far. Why? Because not only will the larger tube feeders take up a lot of space, but they often wind up being difficult to keep clean if they’re too big. A lot of these come with metal tops and bottoms and UV-resistant polycarbonate. So they should be very much weather resistant.
Hopefully, you know about the small one-cake suet cages that you can hang from trees or from porches, or even from other bird feeders. But did you know there were multi-cake feeders out there? There are also combination feeders that hold birdseed in the center and then on two of the sides they hold the suet cakes.
If you’re getting one for winter, be sure to get the larger capacity feeders. The ones I’ve seen also have overhangs and “roofs” to help shelter the birds while they eat. I suggest going with a metal feeder because it should last longer.
Tabletop Bird Feeders
There’s a new trend in decorative tabletop feeders. I think they look good, but you’d better be sure you don’t have any predators around for this kind of feeder. What makes a tabletop feeder or even a tray feeder excellent for the winter is that you can put such a variety of food in them.
Suet cakes can be kept in cages or broken up and added to the tabletop and tray feeders. The birds will still enjoy them. Seed can be poured into it, millet as well. And you can add mealworms to the mix for insect eaters who are having to deal with a lack of food.
On-Ground Bird Feeders or Tray Bird Feeders
At first, I thought these were two different things, but essentially – they’re the same thing. The differences in them might only be where they are placed, not what they are. Tray feeders are made as a flat tray that holds seed and food right above the ground or they can be screwed into a post to be placed higher.
I’ve seen them made of metal, wood, or plastic. Some have grates in the bottom that allow for a sliding bottom for easy cleaning (kind of what you see in the bottom of most bird cages). Others just have the metal grate and the waste goes out of the bottom to the ground below.
What makes a bird table or a tray feeder different than others is that if it’s placed low enough, ground birds will come and get some food. Also, no matter the height, birds like doves, who like to walk around, will enjoy this. Larger birds will also be able to partake of the goodies on a tray or table, whereas they couldn’t really get to anything in a tube feeder.
Don’t Forget to Provide Birds with Water Over the Winter
Unfrozen, clean water is also a challenge for birds to find during the winter. They need it for drinking and for bathing. Use shallow containers such as plant saucers larger platters, or old cookie sheets. Just be sure you are cleaning it out enough to keep any diseases from spreading and refilling it enough to keep it from freezing.
There are some very decorative bird baths available, but if you have the spare money for that, you might want to look at the practicality of purchasing and using a heated bird bath. That way you can keep the water temperature high enough to deter ice.
Simple Diy Bird Feeders Can Work
Sometimes, you just want to get crafty or you want to get cheap and use what you have on hand. Nothing wrong with that, just be sure to remember that some of these types of bird feeders will need your attention more often during the winter than the ones mentioned above.
Also, whether you make it yourself or you buy it, your feeder will last longer if it’s treated. However, do not treat it with chemicals that could be toxic to animals, birds in particular. Keep in mind that there are water-based preservatives out there. And always make sure the feeder is completely dry before using it.
So long as you keep your feeders maintained and cleaned, things should go well. It’s also a good idea to bring the feeders closer in – maybe even under the eves of the house for winter. If not close to the house, then on a tree trunk to keep a bit of shelter there. Avoid too much ground feeding, or you’ll be inviting pests in to take the bird seed. Always clean things up after each storm or snow so the birds can continue to get to the food. Shovel the snow around the bird feeder, so that doves and other ground birds can also get some food.
There is a lot of incorrect information or myths out there about feeding birds during the winter. I hope you take the time to look up best practices for this helpful chore before you get involved. But I do hope you get involved. There’s nothing so fun as watching the antics of birds who have found a buffet of goodies when they need it.