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GardenSMART :: 6 Preferred Foods for Winter Bird Feeding

6 Preferred Foods for Winter Bird Feeding

By Cole's Wild Bird Products, Inc.
Photographs courtesy of Cole's Wild Bird Products, Inc.

Winter: 'Tis the season for feeding backyard birds from coast to coast, especially in regions where winter weather is harsh. If you are an avid bird feeder, you already know what your backyard birds prefer to eat in winter, but if you're new to feeding the birds, or if you're not having much success attracting winter birds to your feeders, you'll need to know what birds need and want during winter.

Here's a list of some preferred food for birds in winter. Adding some to your feeders will definitely improve the number of birds visiting your backyard feeders and keep birds well fed and happy this winter.

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Suet: Birds love suet. It's the solid fat rendered from beef, venison, or vegetables that provides concentrated energy to help birds make it through freezing winter days and nights. Cole's Wild Bird Products offers a good selection of suet cakes formulated to attract the largest variety and number of wild birds as well as specific bird species. Blue Ribbon Blend suet is formulated to attract the largest variety of songbirds, chock-full of much-needed calories and fiber and a great substitute for insects during the winter months. If you don't have a suet cage you can use an old mesh onion bag or just stick suet to the trunk of a tree!

To cater to seed-loving birds, Cole's Nutberry Suet Blend is a unique seed blend mix of premium human-grade cherries, apples and blueberry-flavored cranberries, preferred nuts, nutritious insect suet kibbles, and whole kernel sunflower meats. It appeals to both fruit and insect-loving songbirds.

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Dried Mealworms: Mealworms provide the perfect balance of protein, fat and fiber birds need in winter. Bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, warblers, flycatchers and wrens love mealworms! Although live mealworms are available in bait and tackle shops, they definitely have an "ick" factor! Opt for dried mealworms, which are just as nutritious as the live ones and you'll substantially decrease the "ick" factor. Serve them alone or add them to any seed mix.

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Black-Oil Sunflower Seed: This seed is the number one choice of almost all seed eating songbirds and considered a winter diet staple for birds. Almost any bird that visits a bird feeder will eat black-oil sunflower. Seeds have slightly thinner shells that are easier to crack than striped sunflower and a higher oil content than other types of sunflower seeds, making them a more efficient and nutritious food. Cole's Oil Sunflower is the absolute highest-grade black oil sunflower out there. It's over 99% pure and cleaned four times to ensure that you get more seed and fewer sticks. Plus it's positively chock full of oil. You want as much oil in your sunflower as you can get because that's what attracts the birds. High-grade, high-oil sunflower means more birds at your bird feeder.

High Quality Seed Mixes: Is there such a thing as a BAD seed mix? YES! While birds can probably tell a good mix just by looking at it, humans can't. Bad seed mixes have lots of filler in them: cheap, junk ingredients like wheat, milo, red millet, flax and corn. Birds will pick out the yummy stuff and leave the filler – and a big mess – behind. For convenient and economical winter feeding nothing beats a good-quality birdseed mix. Cole's line of top quality wild bird feed contains only those seeds that birds actually eat. Each type of seed is specifically selected for its appeal to specific groups of birds.

In addition, Cole's only pulls from the top 1-2 percent of each crop and cleans seed a minimum of four times to ensure top quality seed – not sticks and dirt. Even better, Cole's keeps seed as close to a natural state as possible; there's no washing or coating with chemicals and mineral oil to make it look better. Seed is packed in "human" packaging like potato chips, so it doesn't dry out, spoil or lose nutritional content.

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Safflower: This white, thin-shelled, conical seed is high in protein, fat, and fiber and can provide superior nutrition to many different backyard birds. Safflower is also a lifesaver for anyone (or everyone!) having trouble with squirrels or large "nuisance" birds. Most squirrels and blackbirds don't like the bitter taste, so safflower is an easy way to send a message to any undesirable visitors. If you're tired of feeding more squirrels and annoying flocks of "squawkers" than beautiful songbirds, try safflower.

Fruit: Fruit is an important dietary choice for birds, a good alternative for attracting birds that don't visit seed feeders, and it's easy to offer. Use a bowl or platform feeder and set out grapes, slices of citrus fruits, berries, apple or banana slices, then watch hungry birds enjoy! If you want to feed raisins, be sure to chop them up and soak in warm water first to soften them.

For more information on bird feed and feeders please visit


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