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How to coordinate Winter birding and ‘Feeding birds in winter’: A mutual approach

Winter birding? Sounds a little uncomfortable? Because the general idea is that this season is not meant to be for outing and winter birding with spotting scopes or binoculars is a weird idea. If you are a birdwatcher and you see that winter is forthcoming, would it be sad news for you? Please don’t be sad. You know that the cold has already made the micro-fauna snoozed and the light that is required for spotting bird is less and less present, prefigures the rough passage of the rough season.
But we have a EUREKA for you! There is an opportunity with which both birdwatchers and the birds would be benefited. We think you have already got the point. As it is winter the foods are in short supply and it’s time for all Bird watcher to start winter feeding of our feathered friends and at the same time enjoying winter birding!

Winter birding

And this is the a mutual approach to manage the winter birding and feeding birds in winter. A win-win swaps over with loving pretty birds.

Feeding birds in winter 

The winter feeding of the birds while winter birding, might be observed as an unethical practice from some point of view. However, if the main appeal for the bird watcher is to examine in excellent conditions the many species populating our garden, we must put emphasis on what is the winter feeding for our bird friends and why it is significant. Our environment is made increasingly unfriendly by man (rigorous agricultural practices resulting in a work of the land always faster and less profitable to birds, scarification of hedges, etc.)

The small species like tits, troglodytes, robins etc. are all the more susceptible to the cold that they can lose, in one night, up to 10% of their weight. The proportion of their body surface does not play in their favor; they become cool very rapidly and have to draw every day in their reserves to survive. Hence the need for them to feed sometimes regularly during the short winter days if they want to survive!

Time of feeding for Winter birding 

Feeding should start at the first freezes (usually between mid-October and mid-November, depending on the region). It will end at the start of spring, when the first natural plants bring their seeds. Once you start feeding, you should not stop! It must be continual (at the beginning, but especially at the end of winter: you must not stop the supply)

Amount of food

You must bring a flat amount of food each day (for example, at a cruising speed, the equivalent of one liter of sunflower seeds and two balls of fat per day) and not too vital, so as to limit the risks zoonotic diseases if the number of folks taking advantage of them is very high (diseases such as salmonellosis or tuberculosis, common in birds)

Protection of birds

You must take into account the guard against predators (especially domestic cats!). Better staying away from the places where they can post on the lookout. In the presence of potential predators, it will be needed to make sure a height of at least 1.50 m to arrange food.

Winter birding


Feeders should be cleaned regularly (hot water and soap) to limit the risks of diseases explained before. If feasible, they should be rid of droppings and remains of moldy food regularly. You can use bottle brush which permit with its soft bristles to chafe in the corners, or even clean the ends of trunks decor without tearing the bark. To clean the feeders, warm soapy water and baby bottle brush: very effective. To clean the feeders, warm soapy water and baby bottle brush: very effective!

​Kind of foods

You have to know how to keep it simple: sunflower seeds will be appropriate for a large part of the garden species! We can easily find "wholesale" at local farmers or agricultural cooperatives. .It will also be necessary to provide birds with graisse, that you can make yourself.

Finally, some apples cut in half will attract species that are fond of it! You can arrange with the neighbors who own orchards not exploited, to pick up at the end of the season. You can also go pick some hazelnuts, some nuts and some acorns in the forest, but it quickly become boring.

Water for birds

Like all terrestrial living things, birds drink. It is therefore vital to supply them with fresh water, which will be changed daily or even several times a day in very cold weather. Completely keep away from alcohol, salt or antifreeze in the water. It could be serious! To give some water to the birds, use a shallow urn. In a time of great frost, we can place hot water - but apparently not boiling - that we will renew during the day.

Creating atmosphere for winter birding:

Everything is ready. So we'll get straight to the point: the object is to offer birds at the same time feeders bringing them safety and cover, but also allowing the Bird watcher ideal conditions (or almost) to observe them without trouble! Of course, we will avoid taking pictures of the birds on the feeders or the balls of grease, but indeed on a "natural" element of decoration which justifies positioning perches close to the food made available.

Winter birding

A key part in this kind of winter birding is to make backdrops encouraging to species likely to occur. Thus, we will avoid a setting to human color or at least urban, and we will favor natural colors, replicated by the use of natural materials (or artificial!) The appearance will be preponderant.

The atmosphere should not be planned. Otherwise it would not come frequently! We can create artificial background (due to the road that adjoins your land) and we can even make the lines of the fence located a few meters behind.

For species like great-beaked hawfinch an unsightly background might be preferable with less light. Some species require blue mix with a background in harmony with its colors. The choice of supports will be as important in their size and in their nature .The mountain ash tree lends itself favorable for bird and would be easy to spot them.

Some climbing species such as the torch-tree nuthatch will prefer the generous bark of an old fruit tree trunk or oak.

The peaks and jays are larger and usually more suspicious, it is appropriate to build or choose a tree or trunk of a good size, which will be more appropriate to their habits.

Winter birding

Great spotted woodpeckers, mars pikes and jays oaks come regularly winter, going up to come on my window sills

We can position wild berries (acorns, hazelnuts, etc) on these supports in addition to sunflower seeds and balls of fat.

There are still a number of terrestrial" species (robins, starlings ...) that prefer to forage for food on the ground. In general, the seeds falling from the feeders will be enough to attract them; it will nevertheless be necessary to choose a very clear place to avoid that these birds are not surprised by the predators during the day (domestic cats in particular!).

One of the rules in bird watching is to always be at the height of its subject! I happened to look at the hide lying on the ground under a camouflage net, but the position quickly becomes uncomfortable.

Thus dressed, you will be able after a few days of observation, when the birds have gradually taken their marks, start your shots!

Spotting scopes and settings

Depending on how you intend your spotting scope, you can go for a straight model or an angled scope. Angled scope provides you with a benefit in that you can view your targets in a more relaxed way because it is easy to lower the tripod. They are also perfect for observing birds in the sky. On the other hand, straight spotting scopes are perfect for people who love viewing from their cars where you can mount the spotting scope on the window.

You can check out the Best Spotting Scopes for Birding 

On this point, I would say that everything is possible, and depends in particular on the place where you can spot. As demonstrated above, we can perfectly make freehand spotting. But we can go even further if we can get a wide angle! More generally, a 70-200mm or a 70-300mm can fill 95% of the needs in this area, if you use a few tricks and prepare well its feeders, as explained above. You can have a look at the best spotting scopes for Birding by following this link.

Shooting and Focusing 

It is obvious that one will not be able to spot all the species populating one's garden, from a single point of view (except to regroup the feeding points and to use a whole range of objectives!). The simplest (and most effective) solution is simply to observe the birds from the windows of the house!

Contrary to what some people think, it does not take a 500mm to get the best image, a judicious arrangement of the feeders allowing you in most cases to be content with focal turns between 150 and 300mm: place a branch 1.5m d ' a window will not frighten tits, goldfinches, sparrows, finches, torch-nosts and other greenfinches, which remain among the most "cheeky" species, and may even come to the feeders when you're out.

Light will have to be taken into account according to the time slots where you are likely to focus, the shooting distance according to your focal lengths, and the lighting and hues of the background.


As we explained above, a certain number of species that are not hunted and accustomed to the presence of humans (tits, sparrows, robins, greenfinches, goldfinches, etc.) do not in the least require any particular camouflage. Patience and immobility are enough most of the time! Of course, it is more pleasant to be able to wait for the right moment quietly at home warm, behind his window

Does Focusing with spotting scope through a window deteriorate the image? The answer is yes, undeniably, if we do not use special glasses. But the loss is very limited when we take care to stay perpendicular to the tile, and even a double glazing will remain invisible in the end.

It will just be necessary to correct the lack of contrast in post-treatment induced by the presence of the thickness of lens.

Winter birding

At the level of camouflage, we can simply open the window and simply let fall on the leaves a simple camouflage net (if possible fine mesh: avoid the nets "salad" plasticized, which does not allow good visibility of the feeder).

This allows getting desirable image on the window sills at correct focal lengths.

Ecological Tip

In extreme cold, and to avoid bird-watching through the windows will inevitably make you lose image quality. In that case we can use a "fake window" consisting of a wooden frame the size of a beating, on which we will have attached plastic bubble film used for packaging, split with the cutter to let pass your objective! Cold insulation and discretion guaranteed!!! It is advisable to leave a few tens of minutes the birds to get used to this new "window", but once the habituation passed, it allows realizing clear images.


As we always say, nothing is worth the experience! Also, I hope I have given you the desire to try these types of winter birding , one of the less tricky bird-watching discipline , since they generally offer good results very quickly without too much money, since a spotting scopes with an objective lens between 50mm to 900 in diameter would be enough for winter birding.

The techniques are simple, the necessary means ultimately very limited and the pleasure great! And incidentally, you will do the birds a favor as explained above.

Bryan Jackson

Not knowing what to expect, the expertise was on the far side expectations. I bow-hunted nine days and shot nine animals. Had the most effective time looking a steenbuck - that I ne'er got! My guide Woody Herman created all the distinction. initial time I spot & pedunculate game thanks to Herman. will be back!

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