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Discover Nature: Birds at Feeders in Winter

Missouri Department of Conservation

As food sources become harder to find in the winter, birds go looking for berries, grain and seed at home feeders.

Late fall and early winter is an opportune time to see colorful birds in your yard. Dark-eyed juncos with their slate gray heads and backs and light colored bodies are often seen now at ground feeders. Cardinals and blue jays join them eating on the ground or on a platform.

To increase the popularity of your feeding station, furnish water especially during drought or when the temperature stays below freezing for several days. The Carolina wren and the bluebird, Missouri's state bird, may be enticed to feeding stations during the winter if water is available.

A good, basic food such as black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn or millet, will attract numerous birds. Carolina Wrens love peanuts, suet mixtures, and peanut butter mixed with cornmeal.  A collar around your feeding pole and shield at the top can stop squirrels from raiding your feeders.

You may have heard that it's important to continue feeding once you start it. No research indicates that, during normal weather, birds will starve if feeding is stopped for a time. Birds often visit many feeding stations in a neighborhood. You will be amazed at how fast birds discover new feeding stations. Their natural curiosity and mobility ensure their success at making the rounds.


Goldfinch and chickadees also will visit small, plastic feeders that are fixed to the outside of a window by a suction cup. Locate your feeding station outside a room where you can relax and enjoy the visitors. With their new winter suits, this time of year is one of the most colorful seasons to see birds at your feeders.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Trevor serves as KBIA’s weekday morning host for classical music. He has been involved with local radio since 1990, when he began volunteering as a music and news programmer at KOPN, Columbia's community radio station. Before joining KBIA, Trevor studied social work at Mizzou and earned a masters degree in geography at the University of Alabama. He has worked in community development and in urban and bicycle/pedestrian planning, and recently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with his wife, Lisa Groshong. An avid bicycle commuter and jazz fan, Trevor has cycled as far as Colorado and pawed through record bins in three continents.
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