Edward's Garden Center

Forty Fort, PA

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Birds Who Visit Your Garden in Winter

The cold dead winter has finally arrived in Northeast PA. The garden is dismal, the weather is bitter and no one wants to go outside. The only glimmer of life that can be seen out your window are the few feathery friends that have not left the area due to the cold.


Common grackles can be seen all around Pennsylvania throughout the winter.

Of course we want to keep the little birds coming to our yard and brightening our days. But do we even know what kind of birds we are attracting or how to keep them coming back?

According to a study done by Penn State, there are about 35 different species that frequent bird feeders in PA during the winter months. Rural areas see the most diversity, while more urban areas may continue to see the same species all the time.

Penn State has this wonderful chart on their website to show what birds are around our area in the winter and what food they prefer. We provided a copy of that chart below. Take a look and then keep reading for more tips on how to get these guys to make a stop in your garden.

Species Food Preference Feeder Preference
Mourning dove Cracked corn, millet, sunflower seeds Ground, platform feeder
Red-bellied woodpecker Suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts Suet feeder, hanging feeder
Downy and hairy woodpeckers Suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts Suet feeder, hanging feeder
Blue jay Sunflower seeds,  suet, peanuts Platform feeder
Black-capped chickadee Sunflower seeds,  suet, peanuts Almost all feeders
Tufted titmouse Sunflower seeds,  suet, peanuts Hanging feeder, suet feeder
White-breasted nuthatch Sunflower seeds,  suet Almost all feeders
Red-breasted nuthatch Sunflower seeds,  suet Suet feeder, hanging feeder
Carolina wren Peanut butter, suet Suet feeder
European starling Peanut butter, suet, sunflower seeds Suet feeder, platform feeder
White-throated sparrow Sunflower seeds, millet Ground, platform feeder
Song sparrow Sunflower seeds, millet Ground, platform feeder
Dark-eyed junco Sunflower seeds, millet Ground, platform feeder
Northern cardinal Sunflower seeds, seed mixes Ground, platform feeder, tube feeder with tray
Common grackle Cracked corn, sunflower seeds Platform feeder, tube feeder with tray
Brown-headed cowbird Millet Platform feeder
Purple finch Niger, sunflower seeds, millet Niger feeder, hanging tube feeder
House finch Niger, sunflower seeds, millet Niger feeder, hanging tube feeder, gound
American goldfinch Niger, sunflower seeds Niger feeder, hanging tube feeder, gound
House sparrow Niger, sunflower seeds Platform feeder, tube feeder with tray

Each one of these birds may have different food and feeder preferences, but on thing they all require is fresh water.

Water is even more crucial to birds than food is during the cold months. Many of their usual watering holes are frozen over or dried up so if your backyard has a nice bird bath, they are very likely to come back over and over again.

Shelter is extremely important to winter birds too. Different species will gravitate toward different kinds of shelters. Some birds like the covering of a green bush while others like an empty bird house. Offering both is not a bad idea, because it will bring a variety of birds to visit with you.

Hopefully many feathery friends visit and brighten your winter days this season!

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Invite your feathered friends over to your garden

Edward's Garden Center offers birding supplies

Invite your feathered friends to stay for the season with tips from Edward’s Garden Center!

Birds chirping. Baby birds learning to fly. Birds swimming in the bird bath. Can you think of more enjoyable signs of spring and summer in NEPA?

Hopefully, your feathered friends have already come back to your garden. If not, you may want to make sure you have the items that entice them to a specific place.

1. Food
Is your bird feeder out? Have you cleaned it recently? If not, you should probably take it down and give it a good scrub. Some of the high acid seeds in common bird foods can go rancid if left out in the sun. It can also cause the food to clump and get stuck where the birds can’t reach it.

If your bird feeder is ready, make sure you purchase the right type of food to attract the birds in our area. TIP: Make sure the feeder is not stationed in an area where your dog or cat sits. This will keep many birds from stopping in.

2. Water
Make sure your bird bath is a good source of fresh water for the birds in your area. Clean the birdbath and fill it often with fresh water. During the warm weather drinking and bathing are very important to birds. Watching them frolic in the bird bath is a good reason to provide water too.

3. Shelter
Birds will not stay long in an area where they feel anxious. Make sure there are trees, shrubs and high grasses for birds to hide in if they feel threatened. Providing shelter at multiple levels (high and low) will attract a variety of birds to your garden. Shelter near feeders is especially helpful so birds can quickly retreat if they feel threatened while eating.

4. Nesting sites
Sites available for nesting are especially important during the spring. Birds will be searching for a safe place to start their family. Do a little research on what type of birds you hope to attract and provide nesting boxes or bird houses that suit their lifestyle. Our gift shop has a wonderful selection of handmade bird houses and our staff would be happy to help you chose the correct one.

For more tips on how to invite your feathered friends to frequent your garden this season, visit our birding FAQs page.