How to Help Birds Prepare for Cold Weather

By Leslie Miller


With blizzards already affecting parts of the country, it’s time to consider how to help birds prepare for cold weather. Most migrants left their summer nesting areas long ago, while others are still on the move. This is November, but I still see V’s of ducks, geese, and cranes flying south here in the central flyway. Soon the transition from summer to winter populations will be complete, even here in the south.

Birds are naturally well-adapted to surviving winter, but there are some things you may wish to do to help. Food, water and shelter are a birds’ survival priorities. When you help them meet their needs, you get to enjoy their colorful presence all winter. For me, it’s hard to beat the beautiful contrasting colors of cardinals and jays against a snow-covered spruce, pine tree, or cedar.

Cardinal Foraging for Food  (photo by Leslie Miller)

Why and What to Feed Your Birds

Birds need to build and maintain a healthy layer of fat in order to survive cold temperatures. In order to stay warm, they need calories to burn, just like people. Food is energy; easy food is easy energy.

Providing reliable, easy access to healthy food is the most beneficial way to help birds any time of the year. This is especially true in winter when natural food sources are scarce or difficult to access due to snow and ice.

Birds have distinct feeding strategies. Many common backyard birds eat a combination of seeds, berries, fruit, nuts, grains, insects, and/or fats. These are often available in commercial wild bird foods.

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