Saturday, January 1, 2022

Feeding winter birds in Louisiana

Winter is here! Are you ready to feed the winter birds in Louisiana?

Do you need some new ideas on what different foods and feeders will work best to attract birds in winter?

Would you like to learn the names and identification and see some photos of the common birds in winter at your feeder in Louisiana?

If so, this article is for you!

This article tells why and how to set up a bird feeder in Louisiana in the winter. I'll also show you photos of the common feeder birds in Louisiana 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.

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

Photo of a bird feeder

Why feed winter birds in Louisiana?

Winters in Louisiana are fairly mild. Most days are well above freezing for a high temperature. Natural foods abound.

Thus, birds don't really need us to feed them in order to survive. 

Rather, feeding birds in Louisiana is all about enjoying nature and bringing living things into our lives and backyards. We feed birds because it brings us joy.

And the extra food birds find in our feeders make sure that they aren't overly stressed in winter. Birds get plenty of stress with severe weather, loss of habitat, or predators. So having the safe haven of our yards can help them do better.

Many birds in our backyard may be migrants. They need to fatten up in the spring for their long northward migration. So having ample food during late winter can be a help.

Watching birds can be a private or social pastime. Many people enjoy discussing with their friends and neighbors the latest birds to visit their feeders and their unusual antics.

What birds come to feeders in winter in Louisiana?

There are two broad categories of birds visiting your feeders in winter. There are the year-round residents. There are the winter visitors that spend the summers farther north.

Once you learn the common year-round birds, you'll quickly notice an unusual visitor.

Watching the seasons change with the coming and goings of birds keeps us connected to nature.

You can watch birds without learning their names. But learning to identify the various species brings a special intimacy with the birds, I think.

If you are interested in the birds in your backyard throughout the year (not just winter), and some that do not regularly visit feeders, then you may like my article Backyard birds of Louisiana. I'll link to this resource again at the end of this article.

Here, then are the birds that are most likely to show up at your feeders in Louisiana in winter.

Northern Cardinal

These are well-known birds due to their bright red coloration, fairly large size, and perky crest.

Photo of Northern Cardinal on bird feeder
Northern Cardinal. GeorgeB2 from Pixabay.

These are year-round residents throughout the East and South.

Northern Cardinals are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

Larger than sparrows, but smaller than robins. Males are bright red, females brown. They have thick orange bills, black chin and throat, and obvious crests.

Northern Cardinals eat larger seeds, including sunflower seeds and safflower seeds from hopper and platform feeders, but often feed on the ground.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Photo of Yellow-rumped Warbler on tree branch
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Photo by Greg Gillson

Yellow-rumped Warblers are winter visitors throughout Louisiana.

These abundant warblers nest in conifer and mixed forests across Alaska and Canada and in the mountains of the northeastern United States and the West. They winter along both Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the Unites States and across the southern states into Mexico.

In summer they are very bright. The upper parts are bluish and they have a black chest. They have a yellow crown patch. Western birds have a yellow throat and large white wing patch. Eastern birds have white throat and two white wing bars. 

In winter they are very dull. But, summer or winter, they flash white tail corners in flight and have a bright yellow rump.

They have a complicated slow warble ending in a trill. Their call note is a flat tchep.

While you may see Yellow-rumped Warblers crawling through leafy foliage gleaning insects, or flying out to snatch bugs out of the air, they will come to your feeder if you offer suet.

Blue Jay

These are well-known birds, displayed in advertising and sports teams.

Photo of Blue Jay in a bird bath
Blue Jay. Skeeze from Pixabay.

They live year-round in deciduous woods with oaks or nuts through most of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. In summer they also migrate north well into Canada.

Blue Jays are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

These are blue above, white below and on the face, with a black necklace across the throat wrapping behind the head. The blue crest is a distinguishing mark.

Blue Jays eat sunflower seeds. They love peanuts, too. They use hopper and platform feeders.

Mourning Dove

These birds are one of the most widespread in North America.

Photo of Mourning Dove on stump
Mourning Dove. Greg Gillson.

In summer they breed in open fields, farms, prairies, towns, across all of the United States and north into Canada. In winter they depart most of Canada and the northern Great Plains and higher elevations in the northern states.

Mourning Doves are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

These plump birds have a small round head and pointed tail. They are larger than most feeder birds, but not as large as a domestic pigeon.

Mourning Doves eat mixed seeds and grains. They prefer eating on the ground or from platform feeders.

Carolina Chickadee

This cute little bird is widespread throughout the southeastern United States in deciduous forests.

Photo of Carolina Chickadee at feeder
Carolina Chickadee
Image by George2 from Pixabay

Carolina Chickadees are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

They give a rapid chick-a-dee-dee-dee call and a whistled song fee-bee, fee-bay.

Gray back, wings, tail, and pale gray flanks. Black cap and throat contrasting with white face.

Carolina Chickadees like seeds, especially black oil sunflower seeds. They like suet, too. They eat from any kind of feeder.

Carolina Wren

This wren is a common resident in woodland tangles and backyards throughout the East. 

Photo of a Carolina Wren on a stump
Carolina Wren
Image by SOARnet from Pixabay

Carolina Wrens are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

They sing all year, a loud musical teakettle, teakettle, teakettle or cheery cheery cheery. The call notes are loud and varied, including a chert call.

These have typical round wren bodies with short neck and long active tails. They are rich brown above, warm buffy below with a white throat and long white eyebrow strip back from the eye.

Carolina Wrens visit suet feeders.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

These woodpeckers are fairly common at bird feeders in the East, especially where there are larger hardwood trees.

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

These birds live year-round in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

These birds cling to tree trunks. They have finely barred black-and-white backs. The head and under parts are rather pale gray. Red feathers on the back of the neck reach the bill on males.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers love peanuts from platform feeders. They also eat sunflower seeds and suet.

American Goldfinch

This bright yellow-and-black bird is a favorite summer bird. However, many people don't recognize these birds at their feeders in their dull brown winter plumage.

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

Year-round residents across the northern half of the United States. In summer birds breed north well into Canada. In winter they move south throughout most of the U.S.

American Goldfinches are year-round residents in northern Louisiana, winter visitors throughout.

These are tiny birds with short forked black tails. Wings are black. Winter birds are dull brownish. In summer females are green while males are brilliant lemon yellow with black cap.

American Goldfinches eat black oil sunflower seeds from tube feeders. They love Niger seed from thistle feeders.

White-throated Sparrow

These birds are fairly common in the East in winter, rather rare throughout the West.

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

These birds breed in Canada and northeastern United States. In winter they occur in the eastern and southern U.S.

White-throated Sparrows are winter visitors throughout Louisiana.

These fairly large brown and gray sparrows have a striped head. The head striping can be gray and tan or black and white. The obvious white throat is bordered on the sides with throat stripes and contrasts strongly with the gray breast.

White-throated Sparrows eat smaller seeds such as white proso millet found in better mixed seed brands. They prefer to eat on the ground or platform feeders, but will also use hopper feeders.

Downy Woodpecker

This small woodpecker is widespread in North America and fairly common at bird feeders in winter.

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

Year-round residents from Alaska and across Canada south through the United States, but absent from the Desert Southwest.

Downy Woodpeckers are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

These are less than 7 inches long, bill tip to tail tip. They have a black and white striped head, white back, and black wings with white spots.

Downy Woodpeckers love suet from suet feeders. They also eat hulled sunflower seeds.

Tufted Titmouse

These plain birds are rather common at bird feeders in the East.

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

These birds live year-round in deciduous woods east of the Great Plains in the United States.

Tufted Titmouses are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

Small, a bit larger than chickadees. They are plain gray with a bit of black feathers on their forehead. The crest is often inconspicuous.

Tufted Titmouses eat black oil sunflower seeds from hopper feeders. They are also fond of peanuts.

Eastern Bluebird

If you have some open farmlands adjacent to your home, you may attract Eastern Bluebirds to your backyard. If so, you'll want to set up some bird houses in summer.

Photo of Eastern Bluebird on bird house
Eastern Bluebird. Image by skeeze from Pixabay.

These birds are found in orchards adjacent to open fields and pastures. They may be found in open pine forests and parks. They are year-round residents in North Carolina.

Eastern Bluebirds are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

Bluebirds are pudgy and a bit larger than House Finches or sparrows. They have a large head and short bill. The tail is rather short. They are blue above with rusty orange on the throat and across the breast.

Their call is a mellow rising chur-lee.

They hunt insects by perching quietly on a fence or low tree branch, then dropping on them on the ground. You can attract Eastern Bluebirds to your platform feeder by offering a dish of fruit, such as raisins, blueberries, cranberries, orange slices, and cherries. They also love mealworms. They love bird baths, too.

House Sparrow

These are common city birds in noisy messy flocks.

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

Found throughout much of Canada and the United States, wherever there are people and towns.

House Sparrows are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

Small squatty flat-headed sparrows. Females are rather brown and tan with a pale broad eyebrow, and plain breast without streaking. Males are more chestnut brown above with white wing bars, gray below, with gray crown and black chin, more extensive in summer.

House Sparrows eat a wide variety of small seeds and human food scraps from hopper and platform feeders, and also the ground.

Pine Warbler

Most insect-eating warblers don't visit feeders. But this species is the exception!

Photo of Pine Warbler eating at feeder
Pine Warbler. Nikolaus Schultz, Pixabay.

These birds spend the summer in the eastern United States and adjacent southern Canada. Northern birds move south for the winter to join their kin that live in the Gulf and South Atlantic States.

Pine Warblers are year-round residents at the edge of the state in the northwest and southeast parts of Louisiana. Birds winter throughout the state.

These are small yellow birds with thin pointed bills. They have olive upper parts and face, yellow throat and breast. They have a white belly and under tail. They sport two white wing bars.

Pine Warblers in winter eat suet and sunflower seeds!

Northern Flicker

These larger ant-eating woodpeckers may often be spotted feeding on the ground.

Photo of Northern Flicker in tree
Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker. Greg Gillson.

In summer they range from Alaska and across Canada through most of the United States except the deserts. In winter they are found across the lower 48 states, including the deserts.

Northern Flickers are year-round residents throughout Louisiana.

These are bigger birds than robins with long slightly curved bill and short pointed tail. Their backs are barred black and brown. The pink underparts are full of round black spots. A white rump shows when flying away. Birds in the East (Yellow-shafted) have yellow wing and tail feathers; those in the West (Red-shafted) have salmon-red wing and tail feathers.

Northern Flickers eat suet from suet feeders. They also like nuts and peanuts.

Setting up a winter bird feeding station in Louisiana

The first type of feeder I'd recommend for winter bird feeding in Louisiana is a suet feeder.

Suet will appeal to the woodpeckers: Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, and Northern Flicker. Some of the hardy insect eaters will eat suet, too: Yellow-rumped Warbler, Pine Warbler, Carolina Wren. The Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse will also enjoy suet.

To keep out the over-eating jays, grackles and starlings, though, I'd recommend an upside-down suet feeder. The one I own is the Nature's Way brand (purchase through this my Amazon affiliate link). I haven't experimented too much with various types of suet. A brand I purchase is rather inexpensive compared to others. It is the St. Albans Bay suet (Amazon affiliate link).

The second type of feeder I'd recommend for the common Louisiana winter feeder birds is a hopper feeder. This type of feeder allows mixed seeds and all types of birds to eat from it. Here is a good one from Woodlink (Amazon affiliate link) that should last many winters.

I really recommend the Wagner's Songbird Supreme (Amazon affiliate link) as the best mixed bird seed to use with a hopper feeder. It is over 50% sunflower seeds (whole and kernels) and has lots of white proso millet. Best, it doesn't have any red milo or any cheap fillers. Birds don't throw undesirable seeds on the ground-because they love it all!

This mixed seed will appeal to Northern Cardinal, White-throated Sparrow, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Mourning Dove, and Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Look below for other ideas.

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 Louisiana

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

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