All year long, but especially during the winter, my son and I love to watch birds at our feeders. Over the years, we have learned to identify dozens of birds, & we’ve experimented with different types of feeders & food options to see which combination attracted the most birds.
Bird watching during the winter is especially rewarding for kids because once the birds find your feeders, they will visit frequently! During the summer there are more food options (bugs, berries on plants, etc) but during the winter, it is slim pickings. I have noticed the colder it gets, the more birds come visit.
So where do you start? There are so many options for feeders & food at the store! I’ll share what we have found to work the best for us (we live in North Texas, so my suggestions may not work as well in your area…use my suggestions as a starting point & experiment with your kids!)
I would highly recommend using a good bird seed mix. You can find very cheap bird seed, but it is usually full of red milo (they look like little red BBs) and birds won’t eat that! It’s a cheap filler, and you may find some doves will pick at some off the ground, but feeder birds don’t like red milo. If you look at the seed mixes that cost more, you will see that there is little or no red milo inside.
My favorite, and most successful, mixes are the Song Bird mixes. Lots of different brands put out Song Bird seed varities, and they are designed to draw a wide range of birds to your feeder. We have also had great success with sunflower hearts, but the birds eat that very quickly!
Multiple types of feeders will bring a wider vareity of birds
We have each of these feeders in our trees:
*Hopper: This birdfeeder is your basic feeder. Pour the seed in the top & it comes out of open spaces at the bottom. I like to put a multi-bird type seed in here to attract the most birds possible. My personal favorite are the Song Bird seed mixes. They cost more, but you won’t end up with junk all over your ground because everything in the mix is yummy!
Tube Feeder: Smaller birds are drawn to these tube feeders. You can fill them with any seed, but larger birds like Blue Jays will have a hard time feeding here. We have found that Carolina Chickadees particularly love this style feeder.
Thistle Feeder: These feeders have very tiny holes & are made to hold Thistle Seed. Gold Finches & other finches will frequent thistle feeders. I like our thistle feeder less than the others because only a limited number of birds will eat at it.
*Suet Cake Holder: Suet is an energy-packed food for winter birds and is a popular eating spot in our tree! A wire suet holder is a few dollars & the Suet Cakes are less than $2 each. Woodpeckers love to hang on this feeder, & lots of other birds will peck away at it. I love the suet cakes because it takes a while for the birds to eat it all. These are not good for using in the summer, though, because the suet will either melt or turn rancid. So save these for winter!
*Platform Feeder: This is the single most visited feeder we have! Ours is just a glass plate sitting on a plant stand, so you don’t have to get fancy here. I like to put a seed mix with nuts, fruits, & seed in the plate, as well as sprinkle oats and stale cereals. Cardinals, finches, chickadees, wrens, blue jays, tufted titmouses (titmice?)…everyone stops to visit the platform feeder!
Want to get creative and make your own feeders?
Birdwatching Bliss.com offers plans & ideas for free!
Make a Birdseed Tree with your kids!
Make a Birdseed Wreath to hang from a tree. What fun for the whole family!
Recycle and make this Soda Bottle Feeder with a pop bottle and wooden spoons!
Make a Toilet Paper Tube Feeder. I would suggest inserting popsicle sticks as perches.
And once you get your feeder stations set up, how will you know what birds you are looking at?
I found an fantastic resource at Project Feeder Watch. You can download & print a mini-poster of the common birds you might find at your feeders! Post that on the wall next to the window and see your little bird-watchers in action!
Do a little, or do a lot…no matter what, birds will find your feeder(s) and your family will learn the names of your winter visitors! What birds can you identify?