Winter Birds to Watch For – And How to Attract Them

Many popular, colorful birds head south for the winter but backyard birders can also expect special winter guests arriving from northern Arctic regions to spend the coldest months in what, to them, are more temperate areas. But how can you entice these winter birds to fill the empty places in your backyard?



These birds with jaunty crests and bandit masks are always entertaining, and they travel in hungry flocks. Both the cedar waxwing and the bohemian waxwing are fans of fruit, so plant crabapple trees or berry bushes and leave the fruit available to sate their winter hunger pains. Heated bird baths with fresh water will also attract waxwings.                                                                                                


Dark-Eyed Juncos

These birds are easy to recognize with their pale bills, which they use for eating seeds. Millet and sunflower seed are their favorites, and offer the seed in open platform or tray feeders to accommodate a hungry flock. A brush pile is ideal winter shelter for juncos.

White-Crowned Sparrows:


The bold head stripes make this sparrow easy to recognize, and they have a hearty appetite for sunflower seeds. Leaving some leaves unraked, especially in flowerbeds or under shrubs, will give these birds a place to forage for insects and seeds.



Common redpolls are the most likely to appear in winter backyards, but paler hoary redpolls can also visit occasionally. These winter finches especially love feeding areas with a fresh supply of Nyjer in tube, mesh or sock feeders.

Red-Breasted Nuthatches:

These perky, energetic birds creep headfirst down mature trees while they search for insects, but they will readily visit backyard feeders for nuts and suet. They will roost in cavities to keep warm, so bird roost boxes can help attract them.

Pine Siskins:

An aggressive brown finch with a vibrant yellow splash on its wings, this bird has a sharply pointed bill perfect for eating Nyjer. They can travel in large flocks, so be sure to have several feeders available.


Both red crossbills and white-winged crossbills may make winter appearances in backyards, especially where evergreen trees are present. Offering sunflower or safflower seeds can give these birds with their twisted bills another delicious food source.


American Tree Sparrows:

These colorful sparrows are widespread in winter and prefer to forage on the ground, so planning a ground feeding area or leaving some leaf litter intact is the best way to welcome them. Sunflower seeds, either in hopper feeders or sprinkled on the ground, can be a special treat.

Evening Grosbeaks:

A large songbird with golden-brown plumage and yellow markings, these birds are a sunny addition to any winter backyard. Though more difficult to attract, they will come to feeders offering sunflower seeds or yards where water is available.


Snow Buntings:

A bright white bird with warm cinnamon markings, the snow bunting is a hardy winter species that travels in flocks and enjoys being out in the open. A wide platform feeder with mixed birdseed, including millet and sunflower seeds, is the best way to attract them.



With the right food, water, and shelter, any backyard birder can enjoy visits from northern species all winter long.


~Article courtesy of Melissa Mayntz

Be sure to check back to for more information, projects and tips. Visit your local Agway where you'll find everything you need, year-round, for your home, lawn, garden, farm, pet and wild birding needs. Each Agway location is independently owned and operated and as such products and pricing vary by store.