Gardening Tips and Highlights Waushara County Master Gardeners

Winter bird feeding

by Christine Yesko


Now that winter has finally arrived, I’m setting up a few more bird feeding stations. With the arrival of winter visitors like juncos, red-breasted nuthatches, pine siskins, and a variety of woodpeckers, I’ll be needing a menu of different kinds of bird seed.

I do offer safflower and nyjer; sunflower seeds, cracked corn, millet and suet. I have a feeding station near the pines in my backyard woods, and this gives the timid birds a place to fly to when frightened or just to rest.

I also have platform feeders for squirrels, and other ground feeding birds. Every bird species has specific preferences for the type of feeder and feeder used. With all of these feeder’s set-up, I ensure I will be hosting a variety of visitors.

Buying the economical 50 pound bags of seed, I store them in a large metal garbage can in the garage; this keeps the seed dry, but it prevents attracting rodents and raccoons. When on sale, I purchase the suet blocks, and hang on hooks for the woodpeckers.

Safflower is my go-to seed choice and the only birdseed I offer all year round. It attracts chickadees, cardinals, finches, and mourning doves. It is an annual flower seed favored by medium and large songbirds. Safflower is generally more expensive than other seeds and may be mixed with chips or millet to be more affordable and appealing to more species. Because this seed has a somewhat bitter taste, it is usually neglected by squirrels and other wildlife.

Black oil sunflower seeds are the single most popular seed for different bird species. These seeds have a high oil content that appeals to the majority of bird species, including cardinals, chickadees, sparrows, finches, woodpeckers, and jays. Bird gardeners can also grow this seed during the summer months and birds will strip the seeds from the flower heads. These seeds can be offered in a wide variety of feeders, and if sprinkled on the ground, any ground-feeding birds will enjoy the feast.

Peanut rejects, both shelled and in the shell, attract some of the most beautiful birds, including the red-bellied woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, blue jays, and nuthatches. Though expensive, the price is the entertainment the peanuts provide, and especially if you photograph birds.


I hope this will help you in helping out our aviary friends this winter, because it could be a children’s project for the up-coming long winter.