Backyard birding can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, perhaps especially so during the winter months. Whether you actively engage in creation or improvement of backyard habitat or just provide feeders stocked with favored birdfood items, a number of opportunistic birds can visit your yard on a daily basis. If you're consistent with your bird-feeding efforts, local resident birds will have your yard on the list of their daily rounds. Migrant winter resident birds soon learn from the “locals” where they can find a meal, water and/or shelter, and those that survive until next winter most often return to the same sites where they sojourned the previous year.
The variety of foods you offer our feathered friends helps determine the variety of birds that visit your feeding stations. Black oil sunflower seed is attractive to many birds; cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees, titmouses, woodpeckers, blue jays, as well as doves and many finches are fond of this particular item. Sunflower hearts are eaten by nearly all feeder bird species.
Some smaller birds species that can't open sunflower seeds are attracted to white proso millet, the small white seeds found in many birdseed blends. Sparrows and doves are fond of these seeds, and even wrens will often visit feeders in winter to take advantage of them.
Unsalted peanuts are a favored food of a number of birds. Whether raw or roasted, unshelled or shelled, woodpeckers and jays are especially fond of them. Nuthatches, chickadees, titmouses and pine warblers are also attracted to shelled peanuts.
Suet is a highly popular bird food item, especially in winter. Woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmouses, kinglets, warblers, mockingbirds, thrashers, catbirds, wrens, even bluebirds, orioles and some others are attracted to suet. There are many commercial blends available, some of which seem to be more appealing to our birds than others. Homemade suet is fairly easy to prepare and can be quite popular with local birds. For a homemade “super suet” recipe that birds in our area are extremely fond of, send me an email request.
A number of hummingbirds spend winter in coastal South Carolina. Many are ruby-throated that originated to the north of us. Studies have shown thus far no local breeding hummingbirds spend winter here. Some of our winter hummers are Western species that have flown cross-country for the season. Maintaining a hummingbird feeder in winter will provide a resource for any of these tiny avian treasures, and a number of other bird species as well. Baltimore orioles are frequently attracted to hummer feeders during winter in our area (as well as grape jelly and fresh orange sections.) A solution of one part sugar to four parts water with no other additives is all that's required.