Tips for feeding birds this winter

The Audubon Society of Rhode Island shares tips and advice for tending to bird feeders in your yard.

Use dry, fresh birdseed 

– Don’t use clumpy or tangy-smelling seeds, indications that the seed has gone bad. Hungry birds might still consume rancid seed, which can be a source of salmonella or cause infection.


Foods that humans enjoy are not always healthy for birds

– Offer popular seeds like sunflower, nyjer (thistle), good quality seed mixes, suet, safflower and cracked corn.  Don’t offer processed foods like bread, crackers or other baked goods. Avian digestive systems cannot process cooked food and it will not provide them with proper nutrition.


Keep Those Feeders Clean

– Regular cleaning minimizes the chance of mold and mildew, which create unhealthy conditions for birds. Be sure to let the feeder dry completely after a good wash in warm water.


Don’t worry about going on vacation. The birds won’t starve. 

– Birds find only about 25% of their diet at feeders and do not become dependent on your offerings. Birds have been feeding themselves for millions of years without our help.  They are adaptable and will move on to forage in other places when one food source is no longer available.


An open source of water in winter can be a huge help

– Offering a source of water after harsh storms or in extreme cold can be a huge benefit to birds. A simple, low wattage birdbath heater can be just enough to keep a water source from freezing.


Birds won’t choke on peanut butter

– Peanut butter offers protein and fat that insect-eating birds might seek. Vegetable shortening is also an option for those with peanut allergies.


Place Feeders Near Trees or Shrubs

– Birds are more likely to feed where they can quickly seek shelter from wind, weather and predators.  Most birds will shun a feeder that is too far in the open and away from a source of safety.


Other Visitors to Your Feeder

– Predatory birds such as hawks will often also forage at feeders, and not for seed. Be prepared for feeding ALL the birds, nature’s food chain won’t stop at your feeder.

– If unwanted critters such as rodents, fox or coyote are foraging at your station, suspend feeding for two weeks or more. Many animals eat seed, but removing a food source for several weeks will often break their habit of visiting certain destinations for food.


Commonly found birds in our area:

  • Downy Woodpecker
  • American Goldfinch
  • Mourning Doves
  • Northern Cardinal