Monday, January 18, 2021

Birds that come to feeders in winter

What birds come to feeders in winter?

In general, birds that eat seeds come to feeders in winter. These include finches, chickadees, sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, jays, goldfinches, juncos, doves, grosbeaks, titmouses, starlings, and siskins. 

Birds that eat suet also come to feeders in winter: woodpeckers, bushtits, wrens, warblers, and kinglets.

This is part two that began with the article: Secrets to feeding birds in winter

That other article discusses how to set up your winter feeders to attract the most birds.

These 10 species are the most widespread birds that come to feeders in winter across the US: 

  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Mourning Dove
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • House Finch
  • American Goldfinch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-crowned Sparrow
  • House Sparrow
  • European Starling
  • Song Sparrow

Following are over 40 of the most common birds in winter in the United States. I provide a very brief comment about their identification. Then I give a general idea of their winter range. I tell what their favorite food is in winter, and what type of bird feeder they prefer.


Birds that come to feeders in winter throughout most of the United States

This next section lists birds that may be found at most bird feeders across the US in winter.

It is likely that many of these birds come to your bird feeder, nearly wherever you live in the United States.


Photo of Dark-eyed Junco on the ground
Dark-eyed Junco. Greg Gillson.

Dark-eyed Junco

Brief identification: This tiny bird has a little pink bill. Various forms have black or pale gray heads with brown back. Others are all dark slate gray. All forms have flashing white outer tail feathers.

Winter range: Southern Alaska across southern Canada, southward to northern Mexico and all of the U.S except for Florida and southern Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Dark-eyed Juncos eat small mixed seeds, white millet, from platform and hopper feeders, or even just on the ground.


Photo of Mourning Dove on a branch
Mourning Dove. Greg Gillson.

Mourning Dove

Brief identification: These larger backyard birds are tan-colored and have long pointed tails.

Winter range: Most of United States, except northern Great Plains and Northern Rocky Mountain region, south through Mexico.

Foods and feeder types: Mourning Doves eat many grains and seeds: cracked corn, black oil sunflower seeds. They prefer platform feeders or on ground.


Photo of Downy Woodpecker on post
Downy Woodpecker. Greg Gillson.

Downy Woodpecker

Brief identification: Tiny black-and-white woodpecker.

Winter range: Resident in Alaska and Canada and most of United States except for deserts.

Foods and feeder types: Downy Woodpeckers eat suet from suet feeders. 


Photo of House Finch in tree top
House Finch. Greg Gillson.

House Finch

Brief identification: Small dusty-brown bird with broad streaks on under parts. Male with red forehead, breast, rump. Flocks.

Winter range: Year-round resident across southern Canada and the United States into Mexico.

Foods and feeder types: House Finches eat black oil sunflower seed from tube feeders.


Photo of American Goldfinch on teasel
American Goldfinch. Greg Gillson.

American Goldfinch

Brief identification: Tiny bird. Winter plumage is gray or tan with yellow throat. Dark wings with broad pale wing bars.

Winter range: In winter found across the United States.

Foods and feeder types: American Goldfinches eat Niger seed from thistle feeders, also black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeders.


Photo of White-breasted Nuthatch on tree branch
White-breasted Nuthatch. Greg Gillson

White-breasted Nuthatch

Brief identification: Very short tailed bird climbing on branches and tree trunks. Blue-gray above, white below.

Winter range: Deciduous and pine trees across Canada and most of the United States except deserts.

Foods and feeder types: White-breasted Nuthatches eat black oil sunflower seeds, nuts, from any type of feeder.


Photo of White-crowned Sparrow on fence post
White-crowned Sparrow. Greg Gillson.

White-crowned Sparrow

Brief identification: Large long-tailed sparrow with gray and brown striped back. Black-and-white head stripes.

Winter range: In winter found along West Coast and middle latitude and southern parts of the United States.

Foods and feeder types: White-crowned Sparrows eat millet and mixed seeds on ground or low platform feeders.


Photo of House Sparrow on fence
House Sparrow. Greg Gillson.

House Sparrow

Brief identification: Smaller brown sparrow with plain breast. Male with gray crown and black throat. Flocks.

Winter range: Resident across most of Canada and the United States.

Foods and feeder types: House Sparrows eat mixed seeds on hopper and platform feeders. Sometimes an unwelcome feeder guest.


Photo of European Starling on bird bath
European Starling. Greg Gillson.

European Starling

Brief identification: Shorter tailed black bird. Often in large flocks.

Winter range: Southern Canada and the United States.

Foods and feeder types: European Starlings eat sunflower seeds from platform and hopper feeders. Also eat suet at suet feeders. Sometimes an unwelcome feeder guest.


Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler on branch
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Greg Gillson.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Brief identification: Winter plumage is pale brown above, dusky breast, white belly. Yellow rump.

Winter range: Coastal and southern parts of the United States.

Foods and feeder types: Yellow-rumped Warblers eat suet at suet feeders.


Photo of Ruby-crowned Kinglet in tree branches
Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Greg Gillson.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Brief identification: Tiny round green bird with short tail. White wing bars.

Winter range: Both coasts of the United States and southern states.

Foods and feeder types: Ruby-crowned Kinglets eat suet at suet feeders.


Photo of Song Sparrow in a bush
Song Sparrow. Greg Gillson.

Song Sparrow

Brief identification: Streaked gray, light brown, and dark brown above and on head. White under parts heavily streaked, forming a dense spot on the upper breast. 

Winter range: Most of United States. Absent from extreme northern Northeast, extreme northern Midwest, and extreme northern Great Plains.

Foods and feeder types: Song Sparrows eat millet, black oil sunflower, and mixed seeds from ground and low platform feeders.


Photo of Eurasian Collared-Dove on shepherds hook
Eurasian Collared-Dove. Greg Gillson.

Eurasian Collared-Dove

Brief identification: Large cream-colored pigeon with square tail. Black collar mark on the hind neck. Dark under tail coverts.

Winter range: Has expanded explosively across the continent from Florida in the last 35 years. Found throughout much of the United States; least common in the Northeast.

Foods and feeder types: Eurasian Collared-Doves eat black oil sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and other grains from platform feeders.


Birds at feeders in winter in the northern United States

The birds in this section occur across the northern tier of states. Some of these undergo irruptions far to the south during years of poor cone crop production in the north.


Photo of Evening Grosbeak at bird bath
Evening Grosbeak. Greg Gillson.

Evening Grosbeak

Brief identification: Larger plump finch with thick bill. Dusky merging into yellow. Female grayer rather than yellow. Wings with large white wing patches.

Winter range: Southern Canada, northern tier of United States, mountains of the West. Irregularly south across much of the United States.

Foods and feeder types: Evening Grosbeaks eat black oil sunflower seeds from hopper and platform feeders.


Photo of Pine Siskin at bird feeder
Pine Siskin. Greg Gillson.

Pine Siskin

Brief identification: Very small brown streaked bird. Yellow wing stripe in flight.

Winter range: Coastal Alaska, southern Canada, most of the United States.

Foods and feeder types: Pine Siskins eat Niger seed from thistle feeders. They also eat shelled sunflower seeds from hopper feeders.


Photo of Purple Finch on a branch
Purple Finch. Greg Gillson.

Purple Finch

Brief identification: Brown above, male with reddish wash on back. Top of crown red. Under parts reddish with no streaks on breast of male. Female heavily streaked below, pale eyebrow wrapping around ear coverts. Compare with House Finch. 

Winter range: Eastern United States and also West Coast, adjacent southern Canada.

Foods and feeder types: Purple Finches eat black oil sunflower seeds at hopper and tube feeders.


Photo of Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee. Greg Gillson.

Black-capped Chickadee

Brief identification: Gray above, white below with buffy flanks. Black crown and bib contrast with white face.

Winter range: Alaska, Canada, northern half of the United States.

Foods and feeder types: Black-capped Chickadees eat black oil sunflower seeds from tube and hopper feeders.


Photo of American Tree Sparrow in brambles
American Tree Sparrow. Greg Gillson.

American Tree Sparrow

Brief identification: Small gray and buffy sparrow with chestnut crown and striped back. Dark central breast spot.

Winter range: Rural extreme southern Canada and northern United States: Maine to West Virginia, westward to Idaho, northern Nevada.

Foods and feeder types: American Tree Sparrows eat black oil sunflower seeds and millets seeds from hopper and platform feeders.


Winter birds that come to feeders in the eastern United States

Most of these birds occur from the edge of the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Others are more restricted toward the Southeastern United States.


Photo of Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal. tlparadis from Pixbay

Northern Cardinal

Brief identification: Bright red (males) with crest. Females tan.

Winter range: Extreme southern Canada in the east. All of eastern United States from Atlantic to Dakotas and south to Texas, Florida. Also Arizona.

Foods and feeder types: Northern Cardinals eat safflower and sunflower seeds from platform or larger hopper feeders.


Photo of Blue Jay in bird bath
Blue Jay. skeeze from Pixabay

Blue Jay

Brief identification: Blue above, white below with blue crest, black necklace, white wing patches.

Winter range: East of the Rocky Mountains, across southern Canada, all of Eastern United States west to Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Blue Jays eat sunflower seeds from hopper feeders, nuts and peanuts from platform feeders, and suet from suet feeders.


Photo of Red-bellied Woodpecker on tree trunk
Red-bellied Woodpecker. skeeze from Pixabay.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Brief identification: Pale gray with black-and-white barred back and red crown.

Winter range: Eastern United States, west to the Dakotas, Texas. Rare near the Canadian border.

Foods and feeder types: Red-bellied Woodpeckers eat nuts and peanuts from platform feeders and suet from suet feeders.


Photo of Brown Thrasher on a fence
Brown Thrasher. Linda Jones CC0 from Pixabay.

Brown Thrasher

Brief identification: Large brown bird with large tail. Long pointed curved bill. Heavily streaked below.

Winter range: Southeast, Maryland to Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Brown Thrashers eat suet at suet feeders and some sunflower seeds from platform feeders.


Photo of Pine Warbler in pine tree
Pine Warbler. skeeze from Pixabay.

Pine Warbler

Brief identification: Olive upper parts and face. White wing bars. Yellow throat and breast, white belly and under tail. Long tail. Thin bill.

Winter range: Southeast.

Foods and feeder types: Pine Warblers eat suet at suet feeders and sunflower seeds at hopper feeders.


Photo of Tufted Titmouse on bird feeder
Tufted Titmouse. Anne773 from Pixabay.

Tufted Titmouse

Brief identification: Small stocky gray bird with a crest.

Winter range: Most of the Eastern United States west to Minnesota and Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Tufted Titmouses eat black oil sunflower seeds and peanuts from any feeder type.


Photo of Carolina Chickadee at bird feeder
Carolina Chickadee. GeorgeB2 from Pixabay.

Carolina Chickadee

Brief identification: Small bird with long tail. Gray above. Black cap and bib.

Winter range: Southeastern United States west to Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Carolina Chickadees eat black oil sunflower seeds from any type of feeder, and suet from suet feeders.


Photo of White-throated Sparrow on bird bath
White-throated Sparrow. Greg Gillson.

White-throated Sparrow

Brief identification: Brownish above, gray below with contrasting white throat. Black-and-white striped head with yellow spot above the front of the bill.

Winter range: East and Southeast United States from New York to New Mexico and southern Arizona. Rare throughout the West.

Foods and feeder types: White-throated Sparrows eat millet and mixed seeds including black oil sunflower seeds from ground or platform or hopper feeders.


Photo of Eastern Towhee in tree branches
Eastern Towhee. skeeze from Pixabay.

Eastern Towhee

Brief identification: Large sparrow with black upper parts, white belly, rusty sides. Red eyes.

Winter range: Primarily the Southeast, but New Jersey to Missouri, Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Eastern Towhees eat millet and black oil sunflower seeds from platform and hopper feeders.


Photo of a Carolina Wren on a stump
Carolina Wren. theSOARnet from Pixabay.

Carolina Wren

Brief identification: Brown above, paler buffy below. White-eyebrow stripe. Long curved pointed bill. Long floppy tail.

Winter range: Eastern United States with the northern and western edge of the range from southern Maine to Iowa to Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Carolina Wrens eat suet from suet feeders. 


Winter feeder birds in the western United States

The following birds are found at bird feeders in the West, from the Rocky Mountains westward.

Most of these do not occur in the desert southwest unless otherwise noted.


Photo of Red-breasted Nuthatch on branch
Red-breasted Nuthatch. Greg Gillson.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Brief identification: Small with very short tail. Blue-gray above, rich cinnamon below.

Winter range: Southeast Alaska, across southern Canada, and nearly all of the United States. During some winters, the birds move farther south than other winters.

Foods and feeder types: Red-breasted Nuthatches eat black oil sunflower seeds from hopper and tube feeders.


Photo of California Scrub-Jay on sidewalk
California Scrub-Jay. Greg Gillson.

California Scrub-Jay

Brief identification: Blue above and white below with blue partial necklace.

Winter range: West Coast from western Washington south into Baja California.

Foods and feeder types: California Scrub-Jays eat nuts and peanuts, sunflower seeds from platform and hopper feeders. They also eat suet from suet feeders.


Photo of Steller's Jay on lawn
Steller's Jay. Greg Gillson.

Steller's Jay

Brief identification: Dark blue with black head and crest.

Winter range: The West, from southern Alaska to southern California, New Mexico, into Mexico.

Foods and feeder types: Steller's Jays eat nuts and peanuts and sunflower seeds from platform and hopper feeders. They also eat suet from suet feeders.


Photo of Golden-crowned Sparrow on ground
Golden-crowned Sparrow. Greg Gillson.

Golden-crowned Sparrow

Brief identification: Large, long sparrow, brown above, buff below. Dark forehead with yellow crown.

Winter range: SW Canada to southern California.

Foods and feeder types: Golden-crowned Sparrows eat black oil sunflower seeds and mixed seeds from platform and hopper feeders.


Photo of Spotted Towhee on ground
Spotted Towhee. Greg Gillson.

Spotted Towhee

Brief identification: Black upper parts, white belly, rusty sides. Red eye. White spots on wing coverts and tail corners.

Winter range: West Coast, southern Great Plains south to Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Spotted Towhees eat millet, mixed seeds, and sunflower seeds from the ground and platform feeders.


Photo of Chestnut-backed Chickadee on pine branch
Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Greg Gillson.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Brief identification: Chestnut back with gray wings. Black cap and bib contrast with white face.

Winter range: Coastal Alaska south to San Francisco, California. Also northern Idaho and nearby mountains.

Foods and feeder types: Chestnut-backed Chickadees eat black oil sunflower seeds from tube and hopper feeders. They also eat suet from suet feeders.


Photo of Anna's Hummingbird on branch
Anna's Hummingbird. Greg Gillson.

Anna's Hummingbird

Brief identification: Large green hummingbird, gray-green belly. Males with iridescent rose-pink covering entire head.

Winter resident: Non-migratory, year-round resident from SW British Columbia to southern California, Arizona.

Foods and feeder types: Anna's Hummingbirds eat sugar nectar from hummingbird feeders.


Photo of Lesser Goldfinch on twigs
Lesser Goldfinch. Greg Gillson.

Lesser Goldfinch

Brief identification: Yellow under parts, greenish (or black) upper parts). Black wings with white wing bars. Black tail.

Winter range: West from southern Washington to western Texas, through Mexico.

Foods and feeder types: Lesser Goldfinches eat Niger seed from thistle feeders and black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeders.


Photo of flock of Bushtits on suet feeder
Bushtits. Greg Gillson.

Bushtit

Brief identification: Tiny gray bird with long tail. Usually in flocks.

Winter range: SW British Columbia southward into Mexico and eastward to Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Bushtits eat suet at suet feeders.


Photo of Bewick's Wren on a log
Bewick's Wren. Greg Gillson.

Bewick's Wren

Brief identification: Brown above, pale gray below, white eyebrow. Long floppy barred tail.

Winter range: SW British Columbia south into Mexico, east to Missouri, Texas.

Foods and feeder types: Bewick's Wrens eat suet at suet feeders.


Photo of Townsend's Warbler on suet feeder
Townsend's Warbler. Greg Gillson.

Townsend's Warbler

Brief identification: Gray tail and wings with white wing bars. Green back. Black crown, ear coverts. Yellow face and breast (male with black throat) with black streaks on sides.

Winter range: West Coast of United States into Mexico.

Foods and feeder types: Townsend's Warblers eat suet at suet feeders.


Photo of Mountain Chickadee on branch
Mountain Chickadee. Greg Gillson.

Mountain Chickadee

Brief identification: Gray above, paler gray below with black bib. Black cap with white eyebrow.

Winter range: Mountains from western Canada to southern California, extreme western Texas, into Mexico.

Foods and feeder types: Mountain Chickadees eat black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeders.


Photo of California Towhee on sapling
California Towhee. Greg Gillson.

California Towhee

Brief identification: Large unstreaked brown sparrow with rusty under tail coverts.

Winter range: California into Baja, Mexico.

Foods and feeder types: California Towhees eat black oil sunflower seeds, millet and mixed seeds on platform feeder or ground.



See Part One: Secrets to feeding birds in winter

Here's a summary of different seeds found in mixed bird seed blends and a deeper look into what seeds different birds like to eat.

How to set up a bird feeder



5 comments:

  1. My wife has become an avid birder and is off looking today. I try to join her hobby by better knowing the backyard birds at a minimum. This is a very accessible list for someone not as resourced as his spouse!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good job! I'm sure your efforts will be appreciated.

      Delete
  2. I seem to have lost all my house finches even though I've scattered seed on the ground all over our small orchard. They used to visit in large numbers but this winter, they're nowhere to be found. I have plenty of goldfinches at my hanging feeders. I live in the central valley in CA. We had several trees trimmed pretty severely in January, too. But there are still plenty of other trees for roosting (2 orange + a plum) in and around our yard.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I forgot to check the notify me box for the above post about my house finches...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear ScatteredWriter,

      Thanks for visiting!

      I haven't heard of missing House Finches from anyone else. That truly is strange, as these birds are pretty much common all year.

      My guess is that it just a local phenomenon--they may have moved nearby for some reason.

      In Washington State the Pine Siskins are undergoing an epidemic that spreads at feeders. So feeding at feeders is discouraged for all birds until this outbreak runs its course. This is not unusual finches that flock to feeders in winter.

      It's possible something similar is happening in your area. But then you'd be seeing sick birds at the feeder, not no birds.

      A mystery!

      Delete

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