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WINTER, Lifestyle

Backyard Birding

January 5, 2023


Winter bird feeding is rewarding for the variety of species it brings to your yard during the winter months and beneficial to the backyard bird population when food is sparse. 


The winter weather can present challenges for our feathered friends as their natural food sources, such as insects, berries, and seeds are scarce, and their energy requirements are high – added to this,  shorter days give them less time to gather. Supplemental winter feeding should include high-energy foods high in natural fats and proteins. These foods help our backyard birds fare better throughout the season, maintain their energy, and stay warm in harsh weather conditions.


The most common birds you will see in your backyard garden in Ontario during the winter include:

  • Black-capped Chickadees
  • Blue Jays
  • Common Starlings
  • Dark-Eyed Juncos
  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • Hairy Woodpeckers
  • House Sparrows
  • Northern Cardinals
  • American Crows
  • American Goldfinches
  • Mourning Doves
  • White-breasted Nuthatches



Consider the following when choosing and setting up your winter feeders:

  • Offer a roofed feeder that provides an overhang to protect the food – and the birds – from moisture.
  • Set up suet feeders that hold multiple suet blocks and are sturdy to hold a variety of sizes of birds
  • Choose areas that provide some shelter for the birds while feeding
  • Include feeders that hold a large capacity of seed, are easy to clean, and are made of durable, quality materials
  • If squirrels present a problem, consider using a Squirrel Proof feeder 

Some bird foods are better than others. Providing food high in fat and protein will help your backyard birds recharge after a cold night and keep them energized throughout the day. Suggestions include:

  • Black-oil sunflower seeds – These will attract the most significant number of species. The seeds have a high meat-to-shell ratio and are high in fat and other nutrients, and their small size and thin shells make them easy for small birds to crack open.
  • Good quality deluxe mixed seed – This mix will include a balanced blend of sunflower seeds, red and white milo, cracked corn, and peanut hearts.
  • Suet – This high-fat option is ideal for the winter months helping birds refuel and maintain their energy and warmth. Suet comes in several varieties with suspended ingredients such as seeds, fruit, peanut butter, oats, and mealworms.
  • Nyger or thistle seed – This is a delicacy for smaller birds such as goldfinches. Be sure to use a Nyjer feeder with mesh to prevent the seeds from spilling out.
  • Fruit – Birds love fruits such as grapes, bananas, cherries, citrus, and berries, which are appreciative snacks during winter. You can also use dried seeds from squash and melon.
  • Peanuts – High in protein and fat, dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts are a high-energy food enjoyed by woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, Jays and more.
  • To attract a wide variety of bird species this winter, place multiple feeders with different types of food around your yard.
  • Place your feeders in an area that is easily accessible and fill them frequently. Birds may move to better areas to forage if the feeder sits empty for a few days or they can’t access them.
  • If you can’t get to your feeder due to snow, toss the seed on the ground, your deck, or your patio. The birds will still find it!
  • Birds need fresh water in the winter. Put out small water containers or top up your birdbaths with fresh water where possible.
  • Keep your feeders free of snow and ice by brushing them off after a storm so they can still be accessible.




It is essential to keep your feeders clean to avoid spreading disease within your backyard bird community. Typically, your feeders will get a higher activity level during the winter months and should be cleaned once every two weeks.


You can clean your metal and wood feeders with dish soap and very hot water for routine cleaning. Where possible, disassemble the feeder and let it soak in the solution for at least 15 minutes, followed by a good scrub with a scrub or bottle brush.


If you suspect that there may be mould developing in your feeders, a deeper cleaning is required. After washing in hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly and soak in equal parts hot water and vinegar for 60 minutes.


Rinse thoroughly with hot water and allow the feeder to dry completely —once dried, refill with fresh food.


Sheridan has a great selection of feeders, seeds, suet, and birding accessories. Shop online or visit any of our garden centres for all your winter bird feeding needs.