How to Attract Winter Wildlife to Your Backyard

Winter can be the best time to attract birds and other winter wildlife to your backyard and your garden.  If you provide winter wildlife with what they need the most – food, water and safe winter shelter – you will be rewarded with a diverse flock of winter visitors in your backyard.  Winter birds in particular can help to keep your backyard ecosystem in balance by eating insects.  Winter wildlife can add beauty and life to an otherwise dull garden season.  Working to attract winter wildlife to your backyard will serve as a reminder that, even in the cold of winter, there are still living things moving around in your backyard, that which you should be taking care of regardless of the season.

The easiest way to attract winter wildlife to your backyard is to provide a wide variety of high calorie food.  This is especially true for attracting birds in the winter.  Filling your bird feeders with the best winter food will provide these animals with adequate energy to survive the harsh winter weather.  Some of the most popular winter birdseed choices that are high in oil and fat are suet, peanuts, sunflower seeds, peanut butter and Nyjer.  The following article by Georgia Lund on offers more great advice on how to attract winter wildlife to your backyard and your garden.

To help keep the ecosystem and our gardens balanced with beneficial wildlife, those creatures need food and shelter during the winter months. Creating a habitat in the backyard to attract winter wildlife for their survival and our viewing pleasure is as simple as leaving flower seed heads and brush pile cleanup until spring.

Attract Winter Wildlife with Dried Flower Seed Head

When flowers (both annuals and perennials) and ornamental grasses are done blooming in late summer, leave some flower seed heads on the plants to dry out. The dried flower seed heads will provide food for birds and insects during the winter. As an added bonus, some of the seeds from the dried seed pods will fall to the ground and produce new plants next spring.

Wait Until Spring to Cleanup Brush Piles

Small brush piles which consist of rot-resistant hardwood branches make the perfect refuge for small wildlife during the winter. Rabbits, foxes, wrens and sparrows are some of the wildlife a brush pile will attract during the winter.

Larger wood piles and rotting, felled trees will attract the larger creatures during the winter, but can also become a haven for termites and other harmful insects.

Plant Native Trees, Shrubs and Evergreens to Attract Winter Wildlife

Native trees, such as maple, pine, crab apple and sumac produce seeds, berries or nuts that will feed winter wildlife. Shrubs and evergreens provide shelter from the winter weather and protection from predators. Small mammals and songbirds take winter refuge in cedar, hemlock and spruce trees.

Keep the Birdfeeder Stocked with High Calorie Bird Food

Don’t stop filling the bird feeder at the end of summer, natural food sources are scarce for birds during the winter. Suet and black-oil sunflower seeds are bird foods that are high in calories and will help the birds survive the frigid winter temperatures. Nuts, popcorn and small bits of dried fruits can be strung together to create a garland, or applied to a pinecone covered with peanut butter, then suspended from an evergreen shrub in the landscape to provide high calorie nutrition that songbirds needs during the winter.

Don’t Forget the Water

Wildlife must have fresh water to survive during the winter and in many locations of the country, natural water sources are frozen solid for at least a portion of the winter. Provide a pan of fresh water daily to attract the wildlife, and place the water pan in a sunny location to keep it in liquid form for as long as possible during the below freezing winter temperatures.

When trying to provide fresh water for the winter wildlife, you come across the problem of keeping the water from freezing.  Adding a heated bird bath to your backyard, or adding a heater attachment to your current bird bath, will keep the water from freezing.  This may also attract a variety of winter wildlife that otherwise wouldn’t come to visit your backyard.  Just be sure that you maintain a fresh bird bath with clean water in order to prevent diseases from spreading.

Along with providing food and water for your winter wildlife, you should look into providing shelter to protect the animals from larger predators and severe winter weather conditions.  Aside from doing some landscaping and planting trees and shrubs, you can add bird roost boxes, nesting pockets and other winter bird shelters to protect winter birds from the cold.  Placing these shelters in safe locations – out of the way of wind and heavy snowfall – and providing the birds with a source of winter nesting material for insulation is also very important.  Attracting winter birds and all types of winter wildlife to your backyard or your garden is as simple as following a few basic tips.