Best Kinds of Bird Food to Put Out This Winter

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
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With winter in full swing, wild animals are having a harder time finding food. Putting out food for the wild birds in your area will help them get the nutrition they need to thrive through the cold months. Avian nutrition means much more than tossing out a few seeds. If you’re not sure what to put on your wild bird grocery shopping list, check out this list below to get started:


Fat is an excellent source of energy for birds in the winter. If you don’t already own a suet feeder, there’s no need to worry — you can drop the suet in an old mesh onion bag to hang up outside for the birds. If you have other curious critters around that may be attracted to the food, be sure to hang the bag up high to discourage other feeders that could pose a threat to your avian visitors.


This high-protein food will attract all kinds of birds in the wintertime. Place out peanuts that have been shelled and dry-roasted, but be sure to get a variety with no added salt — the birds can do without all that sodium.

Seed Mix

Bad seed mixes have lots of filler most birds won’t even eat, so finding a mix that is simple and nutritious can take a little bit of research. A good seed mix should have a variety of items like sunflower seeds, cracked corn and white proso millet. Proper nutrition is important to bird health, and lack of vitamin D can result in immune suppression for birds, which leaves them vulnerable to a variety of illnesses.

Black Oil Sunflower Seeds

Almost any bird will eat black oil sunflower seeds. The outer shell is thinner and easier for most birds to crack, but the kernel inside is bigger than that of other varieties of sunflowers.


Fruit is an important element in diets of both humans and birds. When available, birds will eat rose hips and pokeweed fruit, but the freezing winter weather can make it difficult if not impossible for birds to find fruit in the wild. Set out slices of citrus fruit, pieces of apples and bananas or grapes for your local bird population to chow down on. Apricots and mangoes also make tasty treats for birds. You can mix in some leafy green veggies like broccoli and kale as well.


Mealworms can be found in almost any bait store, but if you don’t have one in your area, don’t get distressed — pretty much everything is available on the internet these days, mealworms included. Almost any feeder bird except goldfinches will eat mealworms, which makes them a perfect option for winter nutrition. Putting the mealworms in a glass bowl with rolled oats makes a tasty dish for your birds, and the slippery sides ensure the mealworms can’t crawl out before they’re eaten.

Safflower Seeds

Safflowers have harder shells, which can make it difficult for some birds to open them, but cardinals absolutely love this treat. Chickadees, doves and some sparrows will also happily chow down on safflower seeds placed out for them. An added bonus of this bird food is that squirrels don’t seem to care for it, keeping your bird food safe from their curious hands.

Homemade Bird Treats

Not satisfied with your store’s food options? Skip the store altogether by making your own bird treats. Make snack blocks for the birds by melting suet and adding little treats inside such as pieces of peanut, apple bits or raisins. You can pour this mixture into ice cube trays, allow them to harden into cube-sized servings and place them out for the birds in your area. You can even put the food straight on the trees: Try rubbing peanut butter or other nut butters on your tree bark and poking bits of nuts and seeds into the peanut butter.

Whether you decide to make treats at home or buy a prepackaged mix, there are tons of ways to keep the birds in your area happy and healthy this winter. Place out some food and keep an eye out to see what the birds seem to prefer. Then you can adjust your feeding plan to suit their tastes. When warm weather comes back around, you’ll have a bunch of fat and happy birds ready to fill your trees with songs.

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere

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