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Best Feeders for Backyard Winter Birds

Updated on November 10, 2012
grandmapearl profile image

At a very young age, Connie learned from her Grandma Pearl to observe and love backyard birds. She stills feeds and studies them every day.

Male Northern Cardinal

Our most familiar backyard bird.
Our most familiar backyard bird. | Source


As the cold weather approaches and snow and ice cover the ground, backyard birds look for supplemental food sources. Natural insect and seed resources become much more limited this time of year.

My feeder gang depends upon a steady supply of suet, black oil sunflower seed, nyjer (thistle), cracked corn, safflower and whole peanuts in the shell. To attract the most variety and quantity of birds in the wintertime, I recommend the following essentials for success:

  • Suet
  • Tube Style Feeders
  • Gazebo or Hopper Style Feeder
  • Ground/Hanging Tray Feeder
  • Bird Bath with Heater
  • Best Variety of Bird Foods to Have on Hand
  • Optimum Location for Your Feeders

This upside down suet holder allows all clinging birds to access the suet while keeping birds like grackles and other feeder hogs out.
This upside down suet holder allows all clinging birds to access the suet while keeping birds like grackles and other feeder hogs out. | Source

1. Purchase suet and a suet holder/ basket.

Suet provides a high fat energy source that is readily digested to maintain a high metabolism. That way the birds can stay warmer without using up a lot of excess energy foraging. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, etc. will enjoy visiting your suet basket. Suet baskets/holders can be hung from a pole or tree branch.

2. Set Up a Feeding Station for 2 Tube Feeders.

Purchase one tube feeder that is made specifically to dispense seeds like sunflower and safflower. The other tube feeder should accommodate tiny thistle/nyjer seed for the ‘little beaks’, like gold finches, house finches, chickadees, pine siskins, redpolls, etc.

Gazebo style feeders make it easy for birds like cardinals and blue jays to perch comfortably while they dine!
Gazebo style feeders make it easy for birds like cardinals and blue jays to perch comfortably while they dine!

3. Hopper or Gazebo-type feeder for birds like Cardinals.

I have always provided a hopper feeder for my bigger birds, and those with larger beaks. Almost all birds will use a hopper feeder, which can be filled with sunflower, safflower, or a mixture of seeds. Black oil sunflower seeds contain high energy protein that birds can use to stay healthy and active in all weather conditions. Hopper or Gazebo feeders are easy to fill and clean, and can hold a lot of seeds.

4. Ground Feeder Tray.

This type of feeder is best for providing seed and cracked corn to ground foraging birds like cardinals, juncos, doves and wild turkeys. Be very sure to locate the feeder far away from trees and shrubs where predators may be hiding. If you have outdoor cats, don’t use a ground feeder tray. Your birds will be too vulnerable to harm.

Tray feeders usually have a hanging hook feature, so you can still provide a flat surface from which birds can eat. There is a screen in the bottom of the tray so moisture can drain keeping seeds and peanuts dry.

Chickadees Enjoy My Hanging Tray Feeder

Tray feeders are great for all sizes and kinds of wild birds.  They can be hung on a pole or placed on the ground for birds that like to forage under your feeders.
Tray feeders are great for all sizes and kinds of wild birds. They can be hung on a pole or placed on the ground for birds that like to forage under your feeders. | Source

5. Provide Water.

Birds need water year-round just as people do. In the wintertime when water sources are frozen over, a heated bird bath can save many backyard birds from dehydration and death. Bird bath heaters are an inexpensive, low-voltage way to maintain water at just above freezing. Be sure to use an outdoor rated extension cord for safety.


  • Black Oil Sunflower Seed
  • Safflower Seed
  • Nyjer/Thistle Seed
  • Peanuts in the Shell (salted or unsalted, either one is fine)
  • Cracked Corn
  • Suet

Name of Bird
Preferred Bird Food
Preferred Feeder
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, Safflower Seeds, Gray Striped Sunflower Seed
Gazebo, Ground or Hanging Tray Feeder
Blue Jays
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds. Peanuts
Gazebo or Hanging Tray Feeder
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, Suet, Peanuts
Suet Holders, Tube Style Feeders
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, Suet, Peanuts
Gazebo, Suet Holder, Tube Style
Nyjer (thistle) Seed, Black Oil Sunflower Seed
Tube Style, Gazebo
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
Gazebo, Ground Tray Feeder
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, Suet
Gazebo, Hanging Tray Feeder, Suet Holder
Tufted Titmouse
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds, Suet, Peanuts
Tube Style, Hanging Tray Feeder, Suet, Gazebo
Wild Turkeys
Cracked Corn, Sunflower Seeds
Ground Tray Feeder


Feeders should be hung or placed on a pole no lower than 5 feet off the ground. And they should be located from 5 to 8 feet from any overhanging tree or shrub branches. This will discourage hungry squirrels from raiding your feeders by jumping from trees. I also have squirrel baffles on all of my feeder poles. So far, so good!

If possible, locate your feeders so that you can enjoy the show from the warmth and comfort of your home. Studies have shown that watching birds feed is a proven way to drop stress levels naturally. Position your feeding area at least 30 feet from any window, or just 3 feet away, to prevent fatal window collisions. At 3 feet, even if a bird should hit your window, it won’t have attained enough speed to do itself permanent harm.

While you are out there decorating for Christmas, don’t forget to provide a great bird feeding space. You could make a definite difference in the survival of our beautiful and lively backyard birds. They will reward you with their de-stressing antics. I know I look forward to watching the birds every time I get a chance. Decompress with Nature!

Which Feeders Do You Provide for Your Birds?

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What is Your Favorite Type of Bird Feeder?

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    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      7 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Jatinder, I'm so pleased you stopped by to visit! It's a joy to hear that you are as fascinated by birds as I am. They have so much to offer all of us; their antics and songs are a delight for me year round. You're right, they are very intelligent. Birdwatching has been a source of wonder for me all these years, and continues to keep me connected with the natural world, which I treasure. Have a lovely day ;) Pearl

    • Jatinder Joshi profile image

      Jatinder Joshi 

      7 years ago from Whitby, Ontario, Canada

      Thank you for sharing. You have been bird watching for a very long time and I have a lot to read here.

      I have recently started bird watching and am fascinated by these creatures. They are intelligent and fun to have in the backyard. Will read more tips for fall and winter.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      7 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      pstraubie48, I don't know who started calling them 'bird brains', but they were wrong! You have some very smart birds in your trees. I think it's a good idea to hang feeders on the outermost branches so that the kitties won't want to venture out for a meal!

      Every now and then I notice that my birds either totally leave the feeding area or freeze in place. Then I know that most likely there is a predator watching them. They see the hawk or fox or owl before I even know they are there! The survival instinct is a great teacher I think.

      Thanks so much for your visit and for the votes and share. They are very much appreciated. I gratefully welcome the Angels you sent me!


    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      7 years ago from North Central Florida

      Great much information I need to know. I love having birds swarming in my trees and yard. However there are many many stray cats who also like for the birds to flock to my they can have them for d i n n e r. I hung bird feeders and no birds came because they are too smart to be a buffet for the kitties. When I hung them I did not know of the large number of strays...I had just moved to the area. the interesting thing is that I still have many many birds who visit my trees and sometimes on the ground foraging. They have learned to peacefully coexist with the intruders. I am going to see if I can get my grandson to put some feeders high up and out on a limb...although I do know kitties climb making their tasty possible lunches a little more difficult to reach may deter them. thanks for sharing this...

      Voted up

      Sending Angels your way :) ps

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      8 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Thanks cr00059n! You are right. Wildlife needs all the help we can give. And I have found such great enjoyment in watching the birds at my feeder. Thanks again for your great comment and voting up. It is very much appreciated.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This products are for such a great cause. Bird feeders help preserve wild life. Such a priceless commitment starts with a bird feeder. I've marked this as up up ratings. Thanks for sharing this great piece.

    • grandmapearl profile imageAUTHOR

      Connie Smith 

      8 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      A great big THANK YOU to Seeker7. I really appreciate the great comments and am very glad you found this info useful. There definitely is a vast variety of bird food available. However, I have found that the basics work the best for my backyard birds. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 

      8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Lovely hub and very useful information. There is so much wild bird seed types on the market that it can get confusing for people. A great hub + voted up!


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