10 Gorgeous Winter Birds To Watch From Your Backyard

Winter can actually be the best time for bird-watching.

December 11, 2017
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blue jay
Arpit Shende / EyeEm/getty

When the weather turns cool and the snow starts to fall, it can be tempting to bundle yourself indoors and not come out until spring. While winter activities in general are good for your health—get your vitamin D, fresh air, and exercise!—birdwatchers in particular know that the winter months are just the time for spotting feathered friends, some of whom are only around at the coldest time of year.

With a more neutral backdrop and fewer leaves in the way, amateur birdwatchers may find some species are easier to spot. They are also easier to lure to your yard, as food may be scarce elsewhere. Spruce up your yard with a bird feeder or these great birdseed ornaments, and give local birds a place to shelter from the elements with a cozy birdhouse.

Related: 8 Gardening Tasks You Should Do This Winter

A birdbath provides winter visitors with much-needed water. Consider keeping your outdoor cat inside for a while to give birds a chance to inspect your locale, and leave fallen autumn foliage to decompose on its own to give insects and other potential bird snacks a place to thrive. With the stage set, here are some feathered friends you can expect to see:

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Larry Keller, Lititz Pa./getty
Northern Cardinal

This striking bird with scarlet plumage is an iconic winter bird. Flashing its colors against a backdrop of white snow, it is a thing of beauty. Cardinals are not migratory, making their homes in much of the central and eastern United States and southern Canada year-round. They enjoy seeds and fruit for their winter snacks.

Related: Why It's So Important To Feed Your Backyard Birds This Winter

common redpoll
Gary Chalker/getty
Common Redpoll

This lively brown-and-red species lives in the far north of Alaska and Canada during the summer breeding season, but migrates south to the northern US and across Canada during the winter. Tending to stay in large flocks, these birds are not uncommon at bird feeders in the cold months, when their preferred food—tree seeds—is unavailable elsewhere.

Check out the video below to learn how to turn a dried gourd into a birdhouse for your yard:

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black-capped chickadee
Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/getty
Black-Capped Chickadee

Tiny and curious, these dapper “tuxedoed” birds are white and grey with—as their name suggests—a little black cap of dark plumage across the head and eyes. This non-migratory species can be found across Canada and the northern United States. Chickadees will most appreciate a birdhouse lined with sawdust or wood shavings and feed on berries and seeds, as well as insects.

Related: How To Make Migratory Birds Fall In Love With Your Backyard

blue jay
Arpit Shende / EyeEm/getty
Blue Jay

The Blue Jay is dressed in vivid blues and black with a crest of feathers on its head. Like the Cardinal, it can be found year-round in the central and eastern US and Canada. Despite a reputation for being raucous and troublesome, Blue Jays are highly intelligent and social birds. Lure them to your yard with seeds and grains, or their special favorite—acorns. For this very reason, they are often spotted where oak trees can be found.

Related: 8 Really Easy Ways To Attract Birds To Your Garden This Winter

Vicki Jauron, Babylon and Beyond Photography/getty
Downy Woodpecker

In black and white feathers with a red patch atop its head, this small species of Woodpecker is found throughout the United States and Canada all year long. They are seen commonly at bird feeders and even in city parks, where they feed mainly on insects. This bird in particular will appreciate you saving your mat of fallen leaves to shelter their food source. They will however, enjoy a snack of grain if available.

Alan Tunnicliffe Photography/getty

Both White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches can be found throughout the US and southern Canada year-round. This diminutive species is named for a habit of breaking nuts against trees using its long beak. They are insect-eaters, but enjoy bird feeder treats like sunflower seeds and peanuts. Red-breasted varieties are particularly fond of coniferous trees which provide resin to be used in nest-building.

Related: 6 Things You Should Never Feed Backyard Birds

Cami Lind / EyeEm/getty
Cedar Waxwing

Looking like like a creature out of a fantastical world, the Cedar Waxwing has rust-colored plumage fading into grey-blue and splashes of red and yellow on the tips of its wings and tail. In winter, it can be found throughout the United States and the southernmost parts of Canada. Increasingly found in suburban areas, this bird can be encouraged to visit by providing it with berries—raspberries, strawberries, mistletoe, or the cedar berries for which they are named. Make sure berries are kept fresh and not allowed to ferment, which can make the birds sick.

Related: 9 Things You Should Be Doing To Clean Your Fall Garden In Preparation For Winter

northern shrike
Piotr Krzeslak/getty
Northern Shrike

This black-and-white northern songbird has the thick down and plump body of an arctic dweller. Luckily you can spot this beauty when it comes south. In wintertime, it can be seen throughout the northern United States and southern Canada. This is a predatory species that will feed on insects, small mammals, and other birds. The male Shrike is known for its excessive song in late winter and early spring, after which time it returns to cooler climates.

Related: How To Create A Winter Yard That's Friendly To Local Birds

Monica de Moss/getty
American Goldfinch

Making its winter home across the United States and the southernmost parts of Canada, this Finch variety is a common sight at bird feeders. It sports distinctive yellow feathers with a black mask and black and white wingtips. Its diet consists almost exclusively of seeds, so a feeder topped up with sunflower or thistle seeds is sure to attract these sociable birds.

Related: 8 Ways To Keep Squirrels Away From Your Bird Feeders

snowy owl
My images revolve around the sights seen in Manitoba, Canada/getty
Snowy Owl

Okay, so you may need to venture beyond your own yard for this one, as Snowy Owls will not be lured by bird feeders or bird houses. They migrate south from the high arctic during the winter, when northern temperates plummet, and make their winter home throughout Canada and the northern US. They are dazzling birds with white, black-dappled plumage and amber eyes. Favorites of birdwatchers for their size and striking appearance, they can be found in open fields and near water. Daytime sightings are made possible due to the fact that Snowy Owls, unlike most owls, are diurnal as opposed to nocturnal.

Active birdlife keeps insect populations down, propagates the seeds of plants and trees, and offers endless entertainment for bird enthusiasts—whether expert or novice. By making your yard bird-friendly, you are encouraging feathered friends to return year after year, and by providing safe feeding and nesting grounds, you can support declining or threatened bird populations. So grab your birdseed and binoculars and bundle up—birdwatching season is just beginning!