Feeding Winter Birds in Montana: Tips and Tricks




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Winter in Montana can be harsh, with temperatures dropping well below freezing and snow covering the ground for months on end. However, despite the cold and the snow, Montana is home to a variety of hardy winter birds that are perfectly adapted to surviving in these conditions. For birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, feeding winter birds can be a great way to observe these fascinating creatures up close and to help them through the long, cold months.

Feeding winter birds in Montana is not only a fun and rewarding activity, but it can also be an important way to support local bird populations. During the winter months, food can be scarce for birds, and providing them with a reliable source of nutrition can help them survive until spring. Additionally, feeding birds can be a great way to attract a variety of species to your yard, providing you with the opportunity to observe and learn about different birds and their behaviors. Whether you are an experienced birder or just starting out, feeding winter birds in Montana is a great way to connect with nature and support local wildlife.

Why Feed Birds in Winter?

Feeding birds in winter can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for bird lovers. It is also beneficial for the birds themselves. During the winter, birds have a harder time finding food as their natural food sources, such as insects, seeds, and berries, become scarce. By providing food for them, you can help them survive the harsh winter months.

In Montana, winter can be especially challenging for birds due to the cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. By providing food for them, you can help them maintain their energy levels and stay warm. This can also help them conserve their fat reserves, which are crucial for their survival during the winter.

Feeding birds in winter can also help attract a variety of bird species to your backyard. This can provide an opportunity for birdwatchers to observe different bird behaviors and learn more about the birds that live in Montana. Additionally, feeding birds can help create a sense of community as neighbors come together to enjoy the beauty of nature.

It is important to note that feeding birds should be done responsibly. It is recommended to use bird feeders that are appropriate for the type of birds you want to attract and to keep them clean to prevent the spread of disease. It is also important to provide fresh water for the birds to drink and bathe in, as water sources can be scarce during the winter months.

Overall, feeding birds in winter can be a fun and beneficial activity for both birds and humans alike. By providing food and water for them, you can help them survive the harsh winter months and enjoy the beauty of nature in Montana.

Other local states for feeding birds:

Tips for Feeding Winter Birds in Montana

Feeding winter birds in Montana can be rewarding and enjoyable. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Feeder Placement

When placing your bird feeder, consider the following:

  • Place the feeder where it is visible from inside your home.
  • Place the feeder close to trees or shrubs to provide cover for the birds.
  • Keep the feeder at least 10 feet away from windows to prevent bird collisions.
  • Place the feeder in a location that is easy to access for refilling but not too close to high traffic areas.

Feeder Maintenance

Maintaining your bird feeder is essential to keep the birds healthy and safe. Follow these tips:

  • Clean the feeder regularly, ideally once a week, to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Use soap and water to clean the feeder, and rinse it thoroughly.
  • Check the feeder for damage and replace any broken parts.
  • Remove any moldy or spoiled food from the feeder.

Food Selection

Choosing the right food for your winter birds is essential. Consider the following:

  • Offer a variety of food, including seeds, suet, and fruit.
  • Use high-quality birdseed that is free of insects and mold.
  • Offer fruit such as apples and berries, which provide essential vitamins and nutrition.
  • Use suet feeders to provide high-energy suet cakes that contain vitamins A and C.

It is important to note that feeding birds in winter should not replace their natural food sources. Native species of birds in Montana are adapted to the local environment and should not be overly reliant on human-provided food. By feeding birds responsibly, you can help supplement their diet and enjoy the beauty of Montana’s winter birds.

Bird Species to Watch for in Montana

Montana is home to a wide variety of bird species, both native and non-native. From birds of prey to non-migratory bird species, Montana provides ample opportunities for birdwatching and citizen science. In this section, we will highlight some of the most common and interesting bird species to watch for in Montana.

Native Species

Montana’s native bird species include American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, Cassin’s Finch, House Sparrows, and House Finch. These birds are often attracted to native plants, such as grasses and wildflowers, and can be seen nesting in ornamental gardens throughout Montana towns.

Non-Native Species

Non-native bird species in Montana include the European variety of the Mountain Ash, the Showy Mountain Ash, and the Common Redpoll. While these birds can provide an interesting sight for wildlife watchers, they can also pose a threat to native bird populations.

Birds of Prey

Montana is home to a number of birds of prey, including the Rough-legged Hawk, Snowy Owl, Northern Shrike, American Tree Sparrow, Snow Bunting, and Lapland Longspur. These birds are often seen during migration and can be observed hunting in open fields and grasslands.

Predation by birds of prey can be a concern for those who feed wild birds. However, research by FeederWatch has shown that predation is relatively rare and that the benefits of feeding wild birds far outweigh the risks.

Feeding Winter Birds

Feeding wild birds during the winter months can provide a valuable food source for non-migratory bird species. Popular birdseed options include sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet. Montana’s hardy winter birds, such as the Hoary Redpoll, can be attracted to feeders with nyjer seed.

Mountain Ash

The American Mountain Ash is a popular tree for wildlife watchers in Montana. Its bright red berries provide a food source for wintering birds and can brighten up the winter landscape. However, the emerald ash borer is a threat to the Mountain Ash and other street trees in Montana.

In conclusion, Montana provides a diverse range of bird species for birdwatching and citizen science. By providing a food source for wintering birds and planting native plants, Montana residents can help support the state’s wild bird populations.

Dangers and Precautions

Feeding winter birds in Montana can be a rewarding experience, but it is important to take precautions to ensure the safety of both the birds and the feeder. Here are some potential dangers to keep in mind:


Birds can collide with windows and other obstacles, especially when they are flying at high speeds. To prevent collisions, consider placing feeders at least 3 feet away from windows and using window decals or netting to make the glass more visible to birds.


Bird feeders can attract predators such as hawks, owls, and cats. To prevent predation, place feeders in areas with natural cover such as shrubs or trees, and avoid placing them in open spaces where predators can easily spot them. Additionally, consider using squirrel-proof feeders to prevent squirrels from attracting predators to the area.


Bird feeders can also spread disease among birds, especially when they are not cleaned regularly. To prevent the spread of disease, clean feeders and bird baths at least once a week with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Additionally, avoid feeding birds with moldy or spoiled food, and consider using feeders with antibacterial coatings or adding sorbic acid to the birdseed to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

It is also important to note that while feeding birds can provide them with important nutrients during the winter months, it is not a substitute for a balanced diet. Birds that rely too heavily on birdseed can develop scurvy, a condition caused by a lack of vitamin C. To ensure that birds are getting a balanced diet, consider providing a variety of foods such as suet, fruit, and nuts in addition to birdseed.

By taking these precautions, you can help ensure that feeding winter birds in Montana is a safe and enjoyable experience for both the birds and the feeder.

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