Birdwatching in Winter: What You Need to Know

Birdwatching in Winter: What You Need to Know


How do red cardinals behave differently during the winter?

During the spring and summer, red cardinal pairs are very territorial, guarding anywhere from 2-10 acres of land. However, once the temperatures start dropping, cardinal pairs join forces with other couples to survive. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see flocks of red cardinals during the winter, but never in the summer.

Wintertime is a spectacular time for birdwatching. However, if you don’t know what to look for, you could wind up missing out! To help you out, we’ve created this short guide all about winter birding.

Read on to learn the best ways to birdwatch in winter.

Best Winter Birds to Look For

First, you’ll want to make a master list of all the winter birds you’re hoping to watch. Here’s a shortlist of birds you should look for in the winter:

  • Snow Bunting
  • Red and White-winged Crossbills
  • Evening Grosbeak
  • Hoary and Common Redpolls
  • Lapland Longspur
  • Bohemian Waxwing
  • Rosy-Finches
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Snowy Owl

In addition to the list above, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for Blue Jays. As with a lot of birds, there’s a lot of symbolic beliefs that surround the Blue Jays. For instance, some people believe that seeing a Blue Jay in the winter means you’re safe and have nothing to fear for the year ahead.

While others believe seeing a Blue Jay symbolizes the need to start planning for the future. Next, you should also keep your eyes peeled for the different types of crows that come out in the wintertime. While it’s easy to know what a generic crow looks like, not a lot of people take the time to distinguish between the wide variety of crow types.

For example, there are American Crows that make a loud “Caw!” sound. However, there are also practically identical looking Fish Crow’s, and North Western Crows. You can check out the Audobon’s guide here to learn how to tell the 3 types of crows apart.

Tips for Attracting Birds to Your Yard

Next on our list of birdwatching tips, you can put out bird feeders to attract the birds right to your backyard. However, you must be cleaning the bird feeders frequently to prevent the birds from getting sick. You can make life easier by purchasing dishwasher safe birdfeeders like the ones found at this site

Are you planning on using multiple bird feeders? By using more than 1 bird feeder you’ll be able to enhance your birding experience.

Setting up Birdfeeders

As you begin setting up the bird feeders, place them at varying levels. While some birds enjoy feeding high up in the trees, other birds like sparrows enjoy more eating closer to the ground. Next, to attract a diverse group of birds, you’ll want to use a variety of seeds in separate feeders.

Heated Bird Baths

In addition to food, birds also love water sources. In the wintertime, water sources become especially special to birds since the snow and ice make it hard to find liquid water.

If you want to spoil the birds in your yard, consider installing a heated birdbath. Birds that normally wouldn’t think twice about stopping at one of your feeders will jump at the opportunity to take a nice bath. Do you already have a birdbath in place but it’s not heated? To save money, you can simply add a heater attachment to your birdbath so the water stays liquid.

Backyard Shelter

Lastly, birds also appreciate a cozy shelter to help keep them comfortable int eh harsh winter weather. You can use nesting pockets or bird roost boxes to keep small birds safe when the temperatures drop.

Smart Winter Birdwatching Locations

Of course, you won’t want to do all of your winter birding at home. Getting out in the world, and breathing in the fresh air is one of the best parts about birding! If you’re thinking about planning a birdwatching trip then we suggest you head over to New Mexico or Arizona. Both states have large remote landscapes, attracting huge migrations.

If you go to Arizona, you can easily spend the entire day spotting different winter birds at Saguaro National Park or the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve. If you head over to New Mexico then plan a birdwatching excursion through the Chupadera Mountains.

Of course, if you want to stay warm, you can always head down to Florida for a winter birding adventure. Florida’s warm climate makes it a birding hotspot during the winter. If you go to the Everglades in Florida during the winter, you’ll enjoy spotting birds like wood storks, swallowtail kites, and limpkins.

Dress for the Weather

So far we’ve been talking about what birds to look for, and how to find them. However, if you plan on leaving your home to go on a winter birding adventure, you’ll need to take a moment to make sure you’re well prepared for your journeys.

For starters, make sure you’re dressed warmly, and in layers. By layering your clothes, you’ll be able to easily adjust how hot or cold you are. Next, bring plenty of water. We suggest you bring at least half a gallon of water with you.

You never know what birds you might spot, and it’s easy for an hour-long hike to turn into an all-day affair. Finally, bring a snack with you so you’re well-fed while you watch the birds feast on berries and bugs.

Get Outside and Let the Fun Begin

There you have it! The best birdwatching tips for beginners and veteran birders alike. If you don’t already have a master list of bird species, go ahead and start creating one today. Do a quick online search, and find out what birds you can attract to your yard this winter.

Next, buy a variety of birdseed and decide what birdfeeder spots in your yard will help you spy the most birds. Before you know it you’ll be spying more birds than you ever thought you’d see. Explore the rest of this site for more helpful tips like these.

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