How To Feed & Shelter Wintering Birds

Jamilee Hoffman
Feb 9, 2024

Wyncote Xmas Bird Count 2020 in Tacony Creek Park

Learn how you can provide food and shelter for birds in your yard during the winter, from one of our favorite local businesses! This is a repost from our partner, Primex Garden Center. Find the original post here. 

Can’t get enough of birds? The Great Back Yard Bird Count (GBBC) is an international community science event through which participants search for birds in their communities over Presidents’ Weekend each year. (February 16-19, 2024)

Be part of this community science program this year! Participate in your own backyard or join us and the Wyncote Audubon Society for a GBBC Bird Walk in Tacony Creek Park, on Monday, February 19, 10am-11:30am, FREE! Learn about some of the common winter birds that frequent the park. Learn more and register here.


Pennsylvania’s winters can be harsh, and our local bird populations can always use a helping hand this time of year.

Transforming your yard into a winter haven for these winged wonders is a generous act that helps you forge an even stronger relationship with our natural world and gives you a front-row seat to the spectacle that is our local wildlife. Here’s how you can transform your yard into a bird-friendly winter wonderland, complete with food, shelter, water, and much more!

Primex Garden Center-Glenside-Pennsylvania-How to Feed Birds in Winter-assorted bird seed

The Best Winter Bird Food for Pennsylvania 

If you want to turn your yard into a five-star restaurant for our native bird population this winter, these seeds need to be on the menu:

Sunflower seeds are the most versatile and nutritious dishes you can offer visiting birds this winter—cardinals, chickadees, and finches can’t resist the allure of these energy-packed kernels. Stock your bird feeders with them and watch your feathered friends flock to your yard as a bird-friendly garden in fall!

Safflower seeds are another high-calorie treat for birds that are loved by cardinals and mourning doves. They’re also often snubbed by squirrels, so if you’re looking to cater to your local bird populations without interference from other visitors, safflower seeds are your golden ticket.

Peanuts are a favorite of larger birds, like woodpeckers and bluejays. Of course, peanuts are also a treat for squirrels, meaning you’ll either have to sacrifice a few to them or make sure your bird feeder is squirrel-proof!

Primex Garden Center-Glenside-Pennsylvania-How to Feed Birds in Winter-birds on suet

Enhancing Your Winter Bird Buffet with Suet 

Suet is another way to boost your backyard bird feast. Packed with essential nutrients and high calories, it provides a high-energy food for birds during the winter. It’s particularly vital for insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees, supplying them with the fats and proteins they need to endure the cold. Suet also attracts colorful visitors like blue jays, cardinals, and even the elusive brown creeper!

Bird Shelters and Water Sources for the Pennsylvanian Winter Months  

Creating a hospitable landscape for our feathered friends involves more than just food. Offering shelter and open water sources are two other important ways to make birds feel welcome in your yard this winter.

Evergreen Shelters: If you’re thinking long-term, planting a few evergreens is the best way to shelter local birds, especially in winter. Their dense needles shield birds from harsh winds, cold, and snow, and provide them with a safe place to hide from birds of prey. Evergreens also make for ideal nesting sites in late winter and early spring.

Primex Garden Center-Glenside-Pennsylvania-How to Feed Birds in Winter-bird box in tree

Bird Boxes: If the birds in your area are in need of a more immediate housing solution, installing warming and nesting boxes in your yard is a great option. Nesting boxes are usually designed for a specific bird species, with an entry hole that is just the right size for the bird you want to accommodate. On the other hand, warming boxes are typically much larger than nesting boxes, providing space for a variety of bird species to seek cover from cold and snowy weather. Often, you’ll find many birds sharing these spaces together when needed.

Open Water: Like other animals, birds need access to fresh, clean water year-round. You can help them satisfy this need by either buying a heated bird bath or installing a water heater in your existing bird bath, as these small heaters provide just enough warmth to prevent ice from forming. Placing your bird baths in sunny, sheltered spots of your yard is another way to keep the water from freezing for longer.

Solving the Squirrel Dilemma 

Primex Garden Center-Glenside-Pennsylvania-Holiday Gift Guide 2023-clean circle face careSquirrels have an obnoxious habit of invading our bird feeders before birds have a chance to enjoy them. To prevent this, we recommend investing in squirrel-proof feeders, complete with weight-activated perches that close the seed ports when an unauthorized guest tries to access the goods. Other designs, like slippery squirrel-proof covers, prevent access to mammals while leaving the ports open to fliers.

Tips for Weatherproofing Your Bird Feeders 

Weatherproofing your bird feeders is a wise way to ensure a consistent and reliable food source for winter bird feeding, regardless of the elements. Here are four simple tips to consider:

  • Durable Structure: Start by selecting feeders made of long-lasting materials such as metal or high-quality plastic, which can withstand the wear and tear caused by changing weather conditions.
  • Bird Feeder Roofs: Opt for designs with overhanging roofs or built-in baffles to shield the feeding ports from rain and snow.
  • Clean Feeders Regularly: Regularly clean your feeders to prevent the accumulation of moisture, mold, and bacteria, which can be harmful to birds.
  • Strategic Positioning: Position your feeders in sheltered areas, like beneath eaves or close to the protective cover of trees, to minimize exposure to harsh weather.

Primex Garden Center-Glenside-Pennsylvania-How to Feed Birds in Winter-bird eating berries

Creating a Bird-Friendly Garden Habitat  

Crafting a bird-friendly landscape is more than just a simple seasonal endeavor; it’s a commitment to fostering a long-term, thriving ecosystem. Here’s how to do it:

  • Berry Plants: Planting berry shrubs and trees, such as elderberries, holly, and serviceberries, provides a natural buffet for birds that is both beautiful and practical, offering both sustenance and vibrant bursts of color.
  • Fruit and Nut Trees: Introducing fruit and nut trees like apple, cherry, and oak contributes to a diverse menu, attracting a wider array of bird species throughout the year.
  • Evergreens: Evergreen trees, acting as year-round shelters, offer protection from the elements and create cozy nesting spots for our feathered friends.
  • Ornamental Grasses and Grains: Incorporate grasses and grains, such as millet, buckwheat, cover crops, and ornamental species. This adds visual interest to your landscape and provides seeds that ground-feeding birds like sparrows and finches absolutely adore.
  • Organic Pest-Control Methods: Steering clear of pesticides is crucial, as these chemicals harm the insects that birds rely on for food. Embracing a more natural approach to pest control encourages a healthy ecosystem, which is better for everyone!
  • Bird-Friendly Fall Cleanups: Don’t be too hasty with your fall cleanup; leaving seed heads on flowers like coneflowers and black-eyed Susans offers an extended food source for birds during the winter months. It’s like leaving a well-stocked pantry for them to enjoy when times get tough.


Primex Garden Center-Glenside-Pennsylvania-How to Feed Birds in Winter-bird in flowering shrub

Embracing Biodiversity for a Vibrant Bird-Friendly Landscape

Embracing biodiversity is the most profound strategy for attracting birds. A diverse landscape not only meets the varied dietary needs of birds but also provides niches for nesting and shelter. Planting a variety of native plants creates a mosaic of habitats, attracting different insects and, in turn, a broader range of bird species. By nurturing a rich tapestry of flora and fauna, you’re allowing your yard to be a testament to the beauty of balance and sustainability, where every plant and creature has a role in creating a bird-friendly paradise throughout the year.

For more inspiration on feeding birds over the winter and beyond, please visit us at our Garden Center in Glenside, PA!

Recent Posts

Scroll to Top