5 Ways to Safeguard Birds in Winter

If you’ve been outside during a snowstorm for even a few minutes, you begin to wonder how any creature—much less a tiny bird—could survive the frigid temperatures. Luckily, they have a few tactics plus a heavy coat of feathers to help them withstand the cold. But these evolutionary adaptions don’t guarantee birds will make it through freezing months. Give your backyard birds a better chance at survival with Wingscapes’ 5 tips for safeguarding birds this winter.

1. Provide seed

Birds naturally fill up on feed during the winter months. But research shows that birds with access to bird feeders in winter survive at a higher rate than birds without access to feeders. One way to make sure seed is always available to hungry birds is with an Autofeeder. Able to hold up to a gallon’s worth of seed, this programmable bird feeder stays full for longer than regular models. Also, be sure to scatter seed in thickets, brambles, and other sheltered areas where certain birds prefer to forage.

2. Offer high-fat foods

High-fat foods give birds a needed energy boost during cold weather months. Peanut butter, meat scraps, and suet (the fat removed from processed beef) all provide nutrients that help birds survive. Create a suet feeder by dipping a pine cone into liquefied suet. Or smear peanut butter into the hole of a small log and hang it from a tree. Although this high-fat diet seems unhealthy to us, it’s actually good for birds. And it’s a treat both insect-eating and seed-eating birds can enjoy.

3. Use a heated birdbath    

Birds need access to water even when it’s cold. And if it hasn’t recently snowed, it might be difficult for them to find a water source. Keep water from freezing over with a heated birdbath. Although birds are not likely to bathe in freezing temperatures, those who accidently take a dip face the threat of frozen feathers. To prevent this from happening, place large rocks in the bath so that birds can get a drink without getting wet.

4. Insulate your birdhouses

Want to make your birdhouses even more inviting? Add dried grass or wood shavings to the birdhouse floor to give birds a warm space to rest. But avoid using sawdust—it retains moisture when wet, making your birdhouse absorb cold air instead of body heat. Take winterizing your birdhouse a step further by blocking ventilation holes with weather stripping. These holes prevent the box from overheating in the summer but serve no practical purpose in the winter months.

5. Build a wind-free shelter

Even if you hang several birdhouses around your backyard, you won’t be able to accommodate every bird that visits your lawn. An easy way to give more birds a reprieve from the cold is with a windbreak. There are numerous methods to setting up a windbreak, but we suggest using natural materials to make birds feel at home. One option—build a wall with plywood and tree branches, place your brush pile behind this barrier, and scatter seed to attract birds to this spot. 

Want more birding tips and tools? Explore the Wingscapes blog and set up an Autofeeder to protect your favorite winter birds.