Home & Garden

How to attract birds to your garden in the winter

By: Frankie Flowers

©iStockphoto.com/sylvanworks Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/sylvanworks

Home & Garden

How to attract birds to your garden in the winter

By: Frankie Flowers
Sound, movement and colour are the three elements that keep a garden vibrant. You can enjoy all three -- even in the dead of winter -- simply by attracting birds to your backyard.

Many bird species stay in Canada year-round, toughing it out all winter long. Here's how you can help make your yard a welcome place for birds during the cold months ahead.

Attract birds to your garden with specific seeds
The type of seed on the menu determines which feathered friends will come to dine.

Goldfinches are attracted to thistle seeds (Nyjer), blue jays love cracked corn, and mourning doves find safflower seeds irresistible. Want to attract the widest range of birds? Try black oil sunflower seeds, the most universally desired food among birds. You can also provide suet -- a high-protein, high-calorie food source made from pure animal fat -- which is a particular favourite 
of chickadees.

Cheap mixed birdseeds should be used with caution. Inexpensive mixes often contain filler seeds, such as millet, which most birds will discard, only to germinate as weeds next year.

Get a good bird feeder
From squirrel-proof models to automatic feeding systems, the sky is the limit when it comes to fancy feeders. Whether you're spending $5 or four figures (some models go for as much as $2,000!), keep in mind that the style of the feeder takes a backseat to the quality of seed and the ease with which birds can access it. Bird feeders should be cleaned regularly to remove any wet or mouldy seed to keep birds healthy and coming back for more.

Adding a water element to your feeding station is a proven way to attract more birds. In winter, heated birdbaths prevent water 
from freezing.

Provide birds with shelter
The placement of the bird feeder in your backyard is another important consideration. Situating the feeder among evergreens should attract more birds, as trees such as white cedars and white spruces provide shelter and protection, not just from biting winter wind, but also from predators such as hawks and owls.
Grow your own bird feeders with these berry-producing shrub species.

1. Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago): This white-flowering shrub bears bluish-black berries that can feed birds all winter long. Full sun to part shade. Zones 3 to 8.

2. Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis): This native shrub blossoms with white flowers in early spring, followed by bird-friendly red berries. Full sun to part shade. Zones 3 to 7.

3. Alpine Currant (Ribes alpinum): This popular hedging shrub provides wonderful fall colour. Female plants produce berries beginning in late June. Full sun to full shade. Zones 2 to 7.

4. Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis): A staple in the edible garden, this shrub bears black fruit you can use in pies, jellies and even wines – that is, if the birds don't dash your culinary dreams first! Full sun. 
Zones 3B to 9.

5. Highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus var americanum): This shrub produces white flowers in midspring that mature to red or orange fruit in autumn, accompanied by glorious fall foliage. Full sun to part shade. Zone 2.

This story was originally titled "For the Birds" in the December 2012 issue.

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Home & Garden

How to attract birds to your garden in the winter