Winter Care, Attracting Songbirds to the Home Landscape

By Jolyn Johnston-Myers
December 29, 2016

No matter the season, birds have the same needs as people and other creatures: shelter, food and water. Unfortunately, without some human help, those needs are hard to meet during winter.

GearyCounty Extension agent and avid birdwatcher, Chuck Otte, says people make two common mistakes in trying to attract songbirds to their yard. The first is not having a heated bird bath.

“Open water can be a challenge in Kansas in the wintertime,” said Otte. “So that cannot only bring in more birds, but it can also bring in birds that wouldn’t normally come to our seed feeders…things like robins and bluebirds or cedar waxwings.

“The second thing is, people put out the wrong kind of bird feed,” he said. “They just go to the store and they buy a mix because they don’t know what else to buy.”

Otte says what they should be buying is black oil sunflower seed.

“The black oil sunflower seed may be a little bit more expensive than some of the mixes, but you’re going to find that there’s much less waste and you get more of the birds you want,” he said. “Things like the finches…the cardinals, and less of the things you don’t want…like the starlings and the house sparrows.”

The feeder should be filled on a regular basis. If you’re going to be away over the holidays, Otte says to fill the feeder before leaving.

“When you get back, it’ll probably be empty, but just fill ‘em up and within a day or two the birds will certainly find their way back there.

“I remind people that birds are not surviving just by the feed at your feeder,” he added. “You are one stop on a huge buffet line that can go through the entire neighborhood or even over several miles out in the country.”

Birds also require natural habitat around feeders and bird baths for protection. If your yard lacks natural habitat, a live Christmas tree can be used after the holidays as a temporary habitat. Otte says laying the tree on the ground close to the bird feeder will give birds some place to dive into for protection from hawks or just a place to get away from cold winter winds.