When the ground is covered with snow and all the water is frozen our bird friends can use a little help. You will be rewarded in more ways than one. Despite it being winter many hungry and thirsty birds are still about and they are lovely to see and hear . I’ve cardinals, bluejays, juncos, tufted titmouse(mice?), wrens, finches, chickadees, crows, and mockingbirds in my yard just this morning. Hawks, Canadian geese and buzzards still fly overhead. Woodpeckers and some northern robins live here year round, despite winter. Other days during this snow storm I've seen doves, sparrows and gold finch in their drab winter greens.

It is not true that feeding the birds makes them dependent on you. It is nice if you do it all winter but it is not essential. Do not hesitate to feed the birds today because you don’t want to have to continue to do so.

WATER WATER WATER - Birds can’t eat snow or ice to get water – Water is more important than food. Any 2 – 3 inch container will do – keep it unfrozen by rotating containers several times a day.

Don’t have any birdseed? In bad conditions many household items will still help. Birds need protein, carbohydrates, fat and water.


  • Some cooked bits of chopped up meat and/or fat (suet) if you are comfortable with the fact it will attract other animals as well.
  • Bread, crackers, cereal, popcorn (popped or raw but not salted)
  • Any sort of people food nuts or seeds that are not salted. Avoid salted.
  • Peanut butter - mixed with any of the above and smeared on any surface. Also good mixed with powdered milk, honey or sugar and made into little tossable chunks
  • Fruit – raisins or other dry fruit – oranges cut in half and fixed to some surface, apple bits, grapes

Don’t have a bird feeder?

  • Windowsills
  • Shoveled areas on sidewalk or drive
  • Trays placed on the snow for small bits that will just sink otherwise – box lids are good for this
  • Slices of bread with peanut butter on both sides and perhaps dipped into seeds then tossed on the snow

UPDATE in the heat of August one can plan the fall plantings that will grow your own bird food for years to come. Many plants that are lovely for their own sake also yield berries that sustain birds through the winter. Try:

  • Holly
  • Mahonia
  • Bittersweet (can be invasive, use natives only)
  • Virginia creeper
  • Elderberry
  • Mullberry
  • Sumac
  • Hawthorn
  • Snowberry
  • Bayberry
  • Contoneaster
  • Sumac
  • Ash
  • Hackberry
  • viburnum
  • Wintergreen
  • Juniper
  • Bearberry
  • any of the berries or fruits we enjoy are also enjoyed by birds but mostly in the warmer weather

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