Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Feeding winter birds in Washington state

Many residents of the Pacific Northwest are very outdoors and nature oriented. Thus, many people in Washington State put out bird feeders in the winter.

Are you thinking of joining them?

If you are thinking about feeding winter birds in Washington for the first time, or are just looking for some new ideas, this article is for you!

This article tells why and how to set up a bird feeder in Washington State in the winter. I'll also show you photos of the common feeder birds in Washington that you can look for at your own backyard feeder! I will give brief identification tips. I will tell you what foods and what type of feeders attract each species.

West of the Cascade Mountain range winters are fairly mild and very wet. Along the coast, rainfall can reach 150 inches in the coastal hills. Seattle averages about 38 inches of rain per year, much of it in the winter. Snow in the lowlands varies from year to year. West of the Cascades, where most people live, most areas average about 10 inches of snow per year. 

The Cascades volcanic peaks remain snow-covered all year. Towns in higher elevations facing west get more rain and snow.

East of the Cascades winter is cold. Spokane averages 44 inches of snow in winter. Still, there are more sunny days and much less rain than the west side.

Whether you live in eastern or western Washington, there are many birds that come to feeders in winter. Feeding them is a joy! 

In fact, many of the birds at feeders in winter in Washington are resident birds that will come to your feeders all year.



In this article
Why feed winter birds in Washington State?
What birds come to feeders in winter in Washington?
Setting up a winter bird feeding station in Washington
Related articles



Photo of frosty bird feeder by Franz W from Pixabay

Why feed winter birds in Washington State?

Birds in winter are not evenly distributed. One can walk through the woods in winter and detect few birds. These same woods teem with birds in summer.

Rather, many birds are concentrated near towns and residential areas in winter. Towns provide varied habitats, and residential landscaping and parks can provide places for birds to winter. 

Towns often have water impounds and city parks with ponds. Towns create heat islands, a bit warmer than surrounding areas.

There are frequently more birds in residential areas than some nearby areas in winter, such as fields and forests.

These birds need food and water, obviously. And we can provide that to the birds that concentrate in our backyards. Birds especially appreciate our feeders during longer periods of inclement winter weather.

Then, of course, birds provide us with joy. They are a link to nature. This link with nature is ever more important for our mental and physical well-being.

Feeding birds can also give you a hobby to share with like-minded neighbors. Your bird feeders, and thus interest in feeding birds, is readily obvious to passers-by.

A winter bird feeder can be a family project during the mid-winter vacation from school. It can be part of a home schooling curriculum. And what a wonderful way to bond with your grandchildren!


What birds come to feeders in winter in Washington State?

This next section is a guide to the most common winter birds at your feeder in Washington.

If you learn the following 12 bird species, you will have a basic knowledge of the birds in your backyard. This is because many of these birds are actually resident year-round, and will visit your feeders all year, if you are so inclined as to keep feeding birds beyond the winter.

I have written another article on common backyard birds of Washington. It tells about some different birds you may see in spring and summer. It also includes common birds found all year long that don't usually come to feeders. I'll link to it again at the end of this article. Then you can visit that page if you want.

This section following includes my personal bird photos. I add a paragraph about identification. I tell where these birds occur in winter. 

Finally, for each bird species I tell what feeder foods they like best. Then I list what feeder type they prefer.

Ready? Enjoy!


Photo of Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee. Greg Gillson.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

These active little balls of puff visit in family groups with wheezy chick-a-dee-dee calls.

These are birds of damp conifer forests. They occur from coastal Alaska south to San Francisco. There is also a group in northern Idaho and adjacent mountains.

Chestnut-backed Chickadees are common in conifer forests in the western portion of Washington from the Cascades to the Coast. Also in mountains in extreme eastern Washington.

These are very small birds. Round with a big head on short neck.

Wings and tail are dark. Dark blackish-brown crown and black bib are offset by bright white hind face. Back and sides rich chestnut.

These birds love black oil sunflower seeds from tube and hopper feeders. Also eat suet.


Photo of Dark-eyed Junco on stump
Dark-eyed Junco. Greg Gillson.

Dark-eyed Junco

These tiny sparrows twitter and scold on the ground, flashing their white tail feathers.

They are found in openings and the edge of conifer forests. In winter they are found in backyards from Alaska and southern Canada south through most of the United States.

Dark-eyed Juncos are found throughout Washington in the winter.

These birds are small and horizonal on the ground with fairly long tails. The bill is small.

Most birds are brown above and white below, with pink sides. They have heads that are either black (males) or gray (females and first-year birds). Rare forms are all solid dark gray above with white belly.

They prefer to eat on the ground or on low platform feeders. They love millet, hulled sunflower seeds, and cracked corn.


Photo of Song Sparrow on bush
Song Sparrow. Greg Gillson.

Song Sparrow

These birds, when found in backyards, often only occur as secretive singletons or pairs in dense bushes.

Their typical habitat is marshes and wet tangles in stream bottoms, forest edges, road ditches, or anywhere, really. They are found from coastal Alaska south through all but the most frozen parts of the northern United States.

In Washington, Song Sparrows are common in winter throughout western lowlands and eastern stream bottoms.

These are smaller, plump birds with round head.

They are streaked above in various shades of gray and brown. The head is gray with brown lateral crown stripe, line back from the eye. The throat and malar is white, bordered by a wide dark lateral throat stripe and a dark mustache. The under parts are heavily spotted, converging in a central breast spot.

Song Sparrows eat small mixed seeds on the ground or low platform feeders.


Photo of Spotted Towhee in blackberry bushes
Spotted Towhee. Greg Gillson.

Spotted Towhee

These larger sparrows skulk under larger residential landscaping.

These birds like dense brushy habitats. In winter they are found in the West from southern British Columbia south to Texas, New Mexico, California, and mountains of Mexico.

In winter, Spotted Towhees are found in western Washington, and northeastern parts of the state. They avoid the Columbia Plateau away from water, and the higher forests.

These are big plump sparrows with large tails.

These birds are blackish above with white belly and rusty-orange sides. They are spotted on the wings and tail corners. They eye is strikingly red.

Spotted Towhees like sunflower and other smaller mixed seeds from the ground or low platform feeders.


Photo of Steller's Jay on the ground
Steller's Jay. Greg Gillson.

Steller's Jay

These are bold and brash birds in woodlands and backyards. But they keep a wary eye on people, despite being found in residential areas.

These birds are found primarily in conifer habitats, from seashore to mountain tops. They occur in conifer mountains of the West from southern Alaska into Mexico.

In Washington Steller's Jays are found throughout in winter, except in the Columbia Plateau of the southeastern corner of the state.

These are big stocky birds with an obvious crest. They have full tails.

Their blue body, wings, and tail becomes sooty black on the back, upper breast, and entire head.

Steller's Jays eat just about anything. They especially love peanuts and suet, and will also eat sunflower seeds. They prefer larger platform feeders.


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

Anna's Hummingbird

Familiar backyard birds year-round west of the Cascades.

These birds are found in lowlands where water remains mostly unfrozen in winter. They are found from southwestern British Columbia, south west of the Cascades and Sierra-Nevada mountains through California and into Arizona.

Anna's Hummingbirds are year-round residents in western Washington, occasionally in eastern Washington along the Columbia River.

Big for hummingbirds, they have the typical big head, needle-like bill, and short tail.

These are green above and on the belly. Males have iridescent rose-pink feathers covering the entire head and throat in males during the breeding season (which starts in January).

Anna's Hummingbirds drink nectar from special hummingbird feeders.


Photo of Northern Flicker on a branch
Northern Flicker. Greg Gillson.

Northern Flicker

This big bird fools people. When they see it hopping in the lawn eating ants, they can't imagine it is a woodpecker!

Found in woodlands and residential trees, these birds are found in winter across the United States, except the dry southwestern deserts.

Northern Flickers are found throughout Washington in winter except for highest mountains.

Large, with a big head and short pointed tail. Short legs. The bill is long but curved slightly.

Brown above, barred with black. Pinkish on under parts and heavily spotted. There is a black crescent across the chest. The face is gray and brown. White rump visible in flight. In Washington and the West, the wing linings are salmon-orange colored, very obvious in flight. In the East, the wing and tail linings are bright yellow. These, or hybrids, sometimes show up in Washington in winter.

Northern Flickers come to suet feeders and peanuts.


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

Red-breasted Nuthatch

These little birds crawl over the bark of tree limbs and trunks--even upside down!

This species of nuthatch loves conifer trees. They are found from Alaska and across Canada. They are found in the mountains of the northern and western United States, irregularly in winter being found throughout all of the US.

Red-breasted Nuthatches are found throughout Washington in winter.

These are tiny birds with a stubby tail.

Birds are bluish-gray above and delicately pinkish-orange below. The black crown and eye line set off a white eyebrow.

Red-breasted Nuthatches love black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeders. They love nuts and peanuts. They are fond of suet.


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

Pine Siskin

These birds descend to lowland feeders in winter, often in large flocks.

These are birds of northern conifer forests and mixed woods. In winter they are found from coastal Alaska, across southern Canada, and all of the United States, and into Mexico.

Pine Siskins are found throughout Washington in winter.

These birds are the shape of their near relatives, the goldfinches. Thus, they have a rather small head relative to the body. They have short forked tails. The bills are short and pointed.

Streaked brown and rather non-descript like a small house finch, But stronger white wing bars. They flash yellow wing linings and tail feathers in flight.

Pine Siskins love Niger seeds in thistle socks or feeders. They also eat black oil sunflower seeds from tube or hopper feeders, seeming to prefer these hulled.


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

House Finch

This is a common residential bird, often visiting feeders in family groups or small flocks.

They are found in residential areas and farms year-round from southern Canada, throughout all of the United States and into Mexico.

House Finches are year-round residents throughout Washington except for deep forests and high mountains.

These are medium-sized backyard birds with fairly small heads and medium-long tails. The bill is thick and short.

Birds are dusty gray-brown, streaked with darker brown. Males have red-orange feathers on forehead, breast, and rump.

Hous Finches love black oil sunflower seeds from tube or hopper feeders.


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

Black-capped Chickadee

These cute little birds are favorites of many backyard bird watching enthusiasts.

Found in deciduous woods and backyards, they occur from Alaska, across Canada, and the northern half of the United States.

In Washington in winter, Black-capped Chickadees are found throughout the state, except for the Columbia Plateau in the southeastern corner of the state.

As with all chickadees, they have plump bodies, a large round head on short neck, and a longer active tail.

Black-capped Chickadees have a gray back and white underparts. The crown and bib are black, offset by a white face. 

These birds love black oil sunflower seeds from tube and hopper feeders. They also eat suet from suet feeders.


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

Golden-crowned Sparrow

These ground-loving birds are winter visitors to lowland hedges.

Found in winter on roadside edges and brushy areas, these birds winter from southwestern British Columbia to southern California.

In winter, Golden-crowned Sparrows occur in western Washington and eastward along the Columbia River.

These are rather large and long-tailed sparrows.

These are tan birds throughout with dark brown streaked backs, very similar to white-crowned sparrows. These birds have a dark forehead with a touch of yellow on the forecrown, much brighter in breeding season.

Golden-crowned Sparrows eat sunflower and mixed seeds on the ground or low platform feeders.


Setting up a winter bird feeding station in Washington State

I'm going to recommend these feeders for winter birds in Washington.

The first is a tube feeder. Fill it with black oil sunflower seeds. Wagner's usually has a good price (affiliate link on Amazon). I find the best prices, though, at my local farm and hardware store. Sunflower seeds will attract the chickadees, nuthatches, house finches, and siskins. I recommend the Droll Yankees Classic tube feeder (affiliate link).

Secondly, I recommend for you a covered low platform feeder (affiliate link). This feeder has a roof to keep the rain and snow off, and the bird seed dry. I recommend feeding millet only on these ground-level feeders. And don't put out too much at once. Because it can go bad when wet. Here is the white proso millet I bought recently (affiliate link). This low feeder with millet will attract the ground feeding species of sparrows, juncos, and towhees.

Feed high energy suet to birds in winter. I have been buying St. Albans Bay Suet (affiliate link) for my birds. I bought the Nature's Way Upside Down Suet Feeder (affiliate link). Chickadees, nuthatches, bushtits, woodpeckers and wrens feed from it. And it does a pretty good job at keeping out those greedy jays and starlings.

West of the Cascades, keep up a hummingbird feeder filled all year. I like the smaller More Birds Ruby 10 ounce hummingbird feeder (affiliate link). They have larger sizes. But I recommend several smaller feeders rather than one larger one. Remember: one part sugar to 4 parts water.



These related articles should answer your questions on setting up a bird feeder and get you started viewing and identifying your backyard birds: 

The most common backyard birds in Washington State

My recommended bird feeder setup

Bird seeds that attract the most birds

Different kinds of bird feeders for different birds

Bird baths that birds actually use

Binoculars for beginning bird watchers

Bird watching books for beginners




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

For winter birds at feeders in specific states, please see the list in my article index.



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