Just like humans, birds have feeding preferences. So, providing a variety of food sources is essential to supporting birds in winter. When thinking about winter birds and the food they eat, you probably imagine a bird feeder filled with seed mix. While bird feeders provide supplemental nourishment, native plants can provide a variety of food sources all year long for birds. If you’re looking to support birds in winter, consider planting native plants in addition to purchasing a bird feeder so birds have plenty of food options. Native plants can offer nectar, seeds, fruits, and insects to help sustain energy production for many bird species, especially in the colder months.
What bird feeders are best for Oregon winter birds?
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of bird feeders available. However, when thinking about which birds you want to attract to your yard, the choice can be simple. While each feeder requires different food, they should all be cleaned regularly and hung from a pole or tree branch at least 5 feet from the ground and 3 feet from any window.
Here are some common birds and their feeder and seed preferences:
- Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, siskins, and finches – Use a tube feeder that has metal around the seed dispenser to deter squirrels. You can fill the feeder with black oil sunflower seed, mixed seed, safflower, nyjer thistle, and peanuts.
- Woodpeckers, titmice, bushtits, nuthatches, chickadees, wrens, creepers, and warblers – Cage feeders, mesh onion bags filled with suet, and pinecones with suet are best. Suet is animal fat and provides a high-energy food for birds in the winter. You can use the suet on its own or mix it with other seed.
- Cardinals, jays, grackles, red-winged blackbirds – Hopper feeders store an abundance of seed, like safflower, sunflower, and cracked corn. They are triggered by the weight of arriving birds to release seed.
- Anna’s hummingbird – Hummingbirds eat nectar and require a hummingbird feeder. You can buy a nectar mix or create your own by mixing 1 part processed white sugar to 4 parts of water. Do not use brown sugar, raw sugar, molasses, or food coloring. To keep these feeders from freezing, you can wrap non-LED Christmas lights around the feeder, tape handwarmers to the base of the feeder, bring the feeder in at night, or buy a feeder heater.
Read more about winter bird feeders here.
What native plants can be used as bird food in Oregon?
One benefit native plants have over bird feeders is that they provide birds shelter from weather and predators. Native shrubs that produce berries are a favorite among local Oregon birds.
Here are some of the best berry-producing plants for birds in Oregon:
- Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) – Bright yellow flowers in mid-winter with blue-black berries. This is Oregon’s state flower and can grow 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
- Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) – Can grow to 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Snowberry has clusters of white berries that last through the winter and pink flowers that attract hummingbirds in the late spring and summer.
- Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) – Has pinkish-purple flowers that attract hummingbirds and small orange to red fruit that resembles raspberries. Also provides great shelter for animals.
- Pacific wax myrtle (Myrica californica) – An evergreen that can grow up to 30 feet tall. It has purplish berries in the fall that last through the winter.
Bosky Dell Natives has a great list of native plants to attract birds.
In addition to providing a variety of food sources for winter birds, you should also provide clean water for drinking or bathing. Some ideas include a bird bath, small pond, or dish in your yard. By creating a bird-friendly environment in your yard, you can enjoy the beauty and diversity of Oregon’s birds all year round!