The winter birds are out and about in New Jersey looking for food and beautifying backyards amongst the snow and ice. Attracting more of them as the season rolls on, depends a lot on the type of feeder and seed chosen.

What type of feeder attracts winter birds in NJ?

Mike Anderson, sanctuary director for NJ Audubon Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary in Bernardsville, said there are two types of feeders to attract winter birds.

One is a tube feeder with has about six to eight perches with small holes so multiple birds can feed there at the same time.

The other is a tray feeder which allows larger birds that won't go to the perch to feed, such as cardinals and woodpeckers. He said grackles also don't like perches so a tray of seed will attract them as well.

What kind of seed attracts certain birds?

Attracting certain birds may require a certain seed. For example, goldfinches like nyjer seed, Anderson said. Chickadees, purple finch, and house finch feed on sunflower seeds, and the seeds are used in tube feeders exclusively.

Nyjer seed (Photo Credit:
Nyjer seed (Photo Credit:

Whitethroats and juncos come to New Jersey for the winter and they feast on the white millet seed. A nut or fruit mix attracts the woodpeckers. Anderson said they love the larger seed with whole tree nuts. Putting this seed mix on a tray feeder will certainly attract these feathered creatures.

A mixed seed can also be spread on the ground so the birds can congregate and have a meal together as well, he said.

Anderson said one thing he found is that most birds, no matter the species, love peanut pieces. When both foods are put out, he said, most often they will eat the peanut pieces first, then go back for the seed.

White millet seed (Photo Credit:
White millet seed (Photo Credit:

Word of warning added Anderson. Pigeons like corn. So if there are pigeons in the area, and you don't want to attract them, make sure there is no corn in the seed mix that is purchased. He said to think about getting an ultimate seed that has no corn in the mix.

Never give wild birds breadcrumbs. Anderson said while this is a common staple that people like to toss out on their lawns or put in their feeders, breadcrumbs offer no nutrients that birds need daily.

How do you take care of bird feeders?

For those living in a forested area of New Jersey, Anderson suggests taking bird feeders in at night so as not to attract bears and then put them back out in the morning.

Feeders with six holes and six perches should be filled back up with seed when it's about one-third full. The last thing anyone wants is birds fighting over the last two perches.


Clean bird feeders every other week. Anderson said cleaning them often will help avoid diseases like avian conjunctivitis, which often affects house finches, but luckily has not been seen in a couple of years in the state. Still, it's a concern.

Anderson said when birds are all sticking their heads in the same hole, they are in close quarters, putting them in jeopardy of getting sick.

He suggests putting the feeders in a garbage can filled with bleach and warm water and giving them a thorough cleaning before and after feeding season which is from September to March.

"The most important time to feed birds is during the dead of winter, particularly when there's been a heavy snowstorm or an ice storm," Anderson said.

The ice storms are worst because they seal up all the feed that is on natural sources like tall grasses and birch trees.

These birds will be looking to nourish themselves after a storm because they may not be able to find food naturally. Having a clean feeder with fresh seed available to them would be a welcoming treat for them.

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