Each winter, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources reminds us to feed our avian friends. Birds rely heavily on a reliable food supply during the cold months, and many people enjoy having birds as a part of their family. Feeding winter birds in Illinois can be a great passing time too.
If you have a bird feeder outside your house, please keep it filled with seed or suet from November through February for all those hungry birds!
The blog post will go on to talk about what can you feed winter birds in Illinois, why do you need to feed winter birds, what are the best bird feeders for colder months and how to set them up, what are the most common winter birds in Illinois, and an overall feeding bird feeding guideline.
Read Also: Feeding Winter Birds In Michigan [Click here]
What To Feed Winter Birds In Illinois
When you’re thinking about what to feed the winter birds in Illinois at your neck of the woods, one thing that probably comes into mind is what type or variety of foods you can offer.
A few foods can be offered through a birdfeeder like suet blocks (made from animal fat), seeds such as sunflower hearts or safflower; even dried fruit pieces might do nicely at times. However, the most common winter bird foods in Illinois are:
- Cracked Corn
- Crushed Peanuts
- Nut and Fruit
- Thistle Seed/Nyjer
- Sunflower Seed
- Mixed Seeds
- Bread crumbs
- Fat Ball
You’ll also find some great bird foods at your nearby pet store. Moreover, something from your kitchen is always a good option.
Also, there’re some excellent commercial foods that can be a great alternative to those mentioned foods above. According to our research and experiment, this is our recommended high-protein bird food that can be an excellent choice for winter bird feeding.
How To Set Up A Winter Bird Feeding Station in Illinois
As you may already know, that winter bird feeding station needs a different approach than the usual. Snow and cold weather can affect your bird feeder setup. Also, some feeders do better than others.
Moreover, the visitors to your food station will vary according to your feeder and the foods you’re offering.
We found the most suitable feeders that can do well during the colder season from a long time of experiment and observation. There’re five most practical and frequent bird feeders that you can use in your food station.
Now, let’s discuss those five feeders and the best food to fill them with. Consequently, the probable visitors you may receive.
#Winter Tube Feeder:
This feeder is an effective and frequent winter bird feeder in Illinois and other states of the USA. Tube feeder is also very easy to set up, clean, and refill. In addition to those, the tube feeder doesn’t catch much rain or snow. Therefore, it’ll be a great choice as a bird feeder during the winter in Illinois.
However, you can fill a tube feeder with cracked corn, crushed peanuts, Sunflower seed, and other different seeds. Moreover, the usual visitors to a tube feeder are house black-capped chickadees, American goldfinches, grosbeaks, lesser goldfinches, some species of sparrows, and finches.
If you’re looking for a tube feeder, here’s our recommended feeder that may interest you.
Ground feeder is one of the easiest bird feeders to have in your backyard or anywhere you prefer. This feeder doesn’t need any extra setup or anything else to keep going. Therefore, just put food on the feeder, and leave it where the birds visit most in your backyard.
However, Illinois has a moderate level of snowfall. Therefore, it’ll be a little bit maintaining because the ground feeders will catch snow. But, it’s a suitable winter feeder that attracts birds like Juncos. Grosbeaks, Anis, Doves, Roadrunners, Sparrows, Towhees, Starlings Cardinals, and Pigeons.
From our experience, this is one of the best ground feeders you can buy for your backyard food station.
#Thistle Feeder in Winter:
Thistle feeder is an excellent alternative to a tube feeder. And the features between these two feeder are similar except for the thistle part. Thistles on the feeder give space for multiple birds to eat simultaneously.
Moreover, the thistle feeder keeps the squirrel away a bit. Also, the maintenance, refill, and cleaning are easy to perform with this.
So, it’s an excellent choice for feeding winter birds in Illinois. Therefore, about feeling this feeder, use different seeds will be the right option. Besides, this type of feeder will bring visitors like Towhees, Finches, Sparrows, and Doves Quail.
This thistle feeder is one of the best and right calls, according to most users, at a low price.
This bird feeder is a suitable alternative for the birds that won’t run for seeds on the feeder. However, woodpecker loves suet feeder in the food station. But, a suet feeder needs shade from the day heat and protection from the squirrel.
The worms and peanuts are a great addition to the suet feeder. Some suet feeders have extra spaces to provide other foods besides that. So, while picking one, ask for those with this feature.
Moreover, a suet feeder’s typical visitors may receive woodpeckers, Chickadees creepers, jays, Wrens, starlings, some warblers, Cardinals, Nuthatches kinglets.
According to our observation, this suet feeder is one of Illinois’ best choices in the winter season.
A hopper feeder is an excellent pick for winter bird feeding in Illinois. But, you need to consider one thing while choosing the feeder. Pick one with a spacious tray. It will allow the birds to stand while eating and keep the scattered foods on the tray.
In addition to that, a bigger shade is preferable for a hopper feeder. Consequently, the best foods for hopper feeders are seeds (except milo) and corn, etc. Moreover, this type of feeder attracts birds like Jays, Sparrows, Grosbeaks, Titmouse, Finches, Buntings, Chickadees, and Cardinals.
However, if you happen to look for one, here’s our hopper feeder recommendation.
A vital thing most bird lovers forget while setting up a food station in winter. It needs a birdbath. Bird needs water during eating. So, keep a birdbath beside the feeder. Otherwise, they’ll have to go to a different location for that.
Here’s our recommended environment-friendly and rustproof birdbath for winter.
Another important thing you shouldn’t forget is that the winter birdbath needs a heater essential to keep the water drinkable. If you want a new heater for your birdbath, you can check this product.
Why Feeding Winter Birds in Illinois
In Illinois, the weather temperature is moderate. It has snowfall for about four months, from November to February. And the weather temperature can reach the freezing point. So, it’s quite a challenging time for most birds.
As you can see in the above graph, the lowest temperature in Illinois is in January. And it has an average high temperature of around 32.5 °F. Consequently, the average low temperature is around 20.5 °F. Therefore, the weather is pretty cold in Illinois during the winter.
In Illinois, the snowfall starts in mid-October and continues until April. However, the highest snowfall happens to be in January. The average snowfall in January is around 2.24″.
Therefore, as you can see, the temperature and snowfall make Illinois a bit challenging for the winter birds. Frankly speaking, birds can survive the winter on their own without any help from us. Mother nature is generous enough for every species can survive on its own.
But, birds need to reduce their activity during the winter to conserve their energy while food and water are scarce. And some have to move to another location with better foods availability to survive. More importantly, the young bird facing the winter can face a hard time surviving for the first time.
Therefore, your little help by providing a food station can help them to spend the winter happily. Moreover, the excitement and joy they bring to our backyard that’s priceless.
What are the Most Common Winter Birds in Illinois
The above table shows the most common winter birds in Illinois from November to February. It shows the percentage of the site visit of those birds from November to February for the year 2020-2021 in different locations of Illinois.
In this blog post, we’ve picked the ten most frequent birds you may encounter during the winter season in Illinois. But these are not all of them.
Birds like Blue Jay, Carolina Wren, European Starling, Hairy Woodpecker, Pine Siskin, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Tufted Titmouse, White-throated Sparrow, Cooper’s Hawk, and American Robin, etc. are common in Illinois in the colder season.
However, we’ll discuss only the top ten most common birds that you may encounter in Illinois during winter in your food station.
1. Northern Cardinal:
One of the most common and popular winter birds throughout the USA. The Northern Cardinal is also the most common and frequent winter bird in Illinois. And it’s a typical visitor to your bird feeder.
Northern Cardinal is moderately large from other songbirds you may encounter. They’re medium-sized birds with a nifty crest on their head and a long tail compare to their body. The Northern Cardinal can reach about 8.3 to 9.2 inches in length with a weight of about 60 g.
The male Northern Cardinals have brighter colors than the females. Moreover, the masks on the male are black, and the female has a grey mask on their face. The bright red color with black feathers is typical for male Northern Cardinal.
This bird species prefer a location with shrublands, garden, woodland, and wetlands areas for living. Moreover, they can be found in Eastern USA, Canada, Mexico, and Hawaii.
However, if you want to bring them to your food station, use different seeds with open-type feeders like a ground one.
As from us, we recommend this bird food to increase their presence.
2. Dark-Eyed Junco:
Dark-eyed Junco is a small and grayish species of the junco family. They’re a part of the new world sparrow, and that is related to fox sparrow species. This bird can be found in the Arctic during the summer and warmer parts of North American territory.
The adult dark-eyed junco has white bellies, gray heads, breasts, and necks with gray or brown wings. They have a weight of 28 g with a maximum length of 7 inches.
Its main diet consists of insects and seeds in the wild. Therefore, to attract dark-eyed Junco at your food station, use millet, mixed seeds, and cracked corns.
If you happen to look for bird food to attract the highest number of Junco on your feeder, try this product.
3. Downy Woodpecker:
The Downy Woodpecker is the smallest North American species of woodpecker you’ll find. This woodpecker species is a common winter bird in many states of the United States.
They’re the lively bunch that is widespread throughout the Northern Territory. And Downy visits towns and city parks frequently.
The living areas of Downy Woodpecker vary to different locations. The typical areas for a living are forests, shade trees, willows, woodlots, river groves, and suburban yards. And the deciduous trees are the best place to look for them in those territories.
The downy woodpecker has a whitish belly with black wings, tail, and upper parts. The wings carry some white spots and slightly yellow markings between the eyes. Moreover, they can reach about 18 cm in length with a weight of 32 g.
Another noticeable feature of the downy woodpecker is the colorful large plumage pattern. Its diet consists of ants, caterpillars, gall wasps, and insects. Occasionally they eat seeds and berries too.
Therefore, use seeds, suet, worms, and berries if you want them in your feeder. However, if you’re trying to get something to attract more Downies to your food station, check this high-rated product.
4. House Sparrow:
The House sparrow is another common winter bird in the USA and Illinois as well. They’re a small bird species with a maximum length of about 7 inches. And they weigh around 1.38 oz.
Among the House Sparrows, the males are brighter black, and the females are grey and brown in color. This species is native to a large part of Europe, Asia, and some parts of the USA.
Their preferred living areas are wide grasses, woodland areas of rural and urban settings. The house sparrow’s diet consists of seeds, grains, insects, and weeds.
To bring them to your feeder, try sunflower seed, milo, millet, and other birdseeds.
If you fill your feeder with this bird food, they’ll be happy to engage in your food station.
5. House Finch:
The house finch is from the family of finch and is found in Hawaii and western North America. It’s one of the smallest birds in Illinois and is considered as part of the American rose finches. They can grow about 16 cm at maximum.
A mature house finch has a long tipped brown tail with dim-brown color on its back. Moreover, heads, shoulders, and necks are a bit reddish for males are frequent. Interestingly, the coloration of male house finch varies from season to season. House Finch prefers urban and suburban areas for living.
This species diet consists of grains, seeds, berries, fruits, and forage for vegetation on the ground. However, the change in coloration comes from the fruits or berries they eat. They also eat aphids and small insects occasionally.
Therefore, to attract House to your bird feeding station, Nyjer is the best pick. Moreover, you can also try different seeds with high oil content.
If you put this bird food in the feeder, House Finch will be happy to oblige.
6. Mourning Dove:
Mourning Dove is also known as American dove, rain dove, or turtledove. And they’re part of the dove family. It’s one of the most typical and plethoric birds of North America. Also, Mourning Dove is the leading gamebird in the USA.
The Usual features of Mourning Dove are mild brown and grey with dull color. Both the male and females are alike. Interestingly, a mourning dove can reach about 28-32 cm in length and fly at 80-90 km/h speed.
This species has a high breeding capability that makes them survive under the pressure of killing about 20-70 million a year.
The Mourning Dove’s primary diet seeds. Besides, they eat grass, berries, herbs, and weeds. To attract them to your feeder, fill it with mixed birdseeds.
However, the presence of mourning doves will increase if you put this bird food in your bird feeder.
7. American Goldfinch:
The American Goldfinches are from North America. It’s a small migratory bird that can be found in the USA, Canada-US border, and Mexico.
The typical feature of male American Goldfinch is a vibrant yellow in summer and Olive in winter. However, the females have faint yellow-brown color that brightens up a bit in summer.
This species prefers the open country with thriving weeds and meadows for living. And American Goldfinch is highly vegetarians. The diet consists of trees, tree buds, plants, sunflowers, etc. Therefore, seeds are the ultimate choice to attract them to your feeder.
However, if you fill your feeder with this bird food, American finch wouldn’t mind about it.
8. Black-Capped Chickadee:
The Black-capped Chickadee is one of the small songbirds that are non-migratory species. They are from the family of Paridae and are native to North American territory.
This Species’ identical features are a bib with white sides and a black cap on its face. The Black-capped Chickadee has white underparts and rusty brown on its flanks with a grey tail. Moreover, its beak is dark and short.
A Black-capped Chickadee can grow about 6 inches in length with a weight of about 14 g. on average.
This species prefers mixed and deciduous forests for a living. And the Black-capped Chickadee’s diet consists of seeds, berries, insects, and invertebrates. But, if you want to attract them to your food station, try seeds, suet, and peanut.
According to our research, this is one of the best products to bring more black-capped chickadee into the feeder.
9. Red-Bellied Woodpecker:
The red-bellied woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker from the family of Picidae. They are often found in the eastern United States and part of Canada.
The male Red-bellied Woodpecker has a murky belly from the adjacent feathers, And the prominent red part is the plumage on its head is more identical than the belly.
Moreover, they are relative to redhead woodpeckers. But the difference between them is noticeable. The black and white pattern on the back of the red-bellied is more eminent than the redhead species.
Red-bellies prefer dead trees for living. And they eat beetles, insects, and different plant matters. If you’re trying to attract them, try crushed nuts, seeds, and commercial bird food in your feeder.
Here’s our recommendation for bringing more red-bellied to your food station.
10. White-Breasted Nuthatch:
The White-breasted Nuthatch is a small songbird that is common in the USA. They prefer warmer regions of North America. This species has a strong bill, stocky, large head, and a short tail.
The White-breasted identical features are the white chest and face, black cap, flanks, chestnut lower parts, and blue-gray upper body.
Their diet primarily consists of insects, branches, and trunks. The White-breasted Nuthatch prefers a feeder with peanut, suet, or seeds in it.
Want to bring more of them to your feeder? Try this bird food.
Feeding winter birds in Illinois will help the birds and give you pleasure or satisfaction with their presence. They’ll brighten up your cold winter days. You can offer different foods like seeds, nuts, corn, worms, and other commercial bird foods.
Moreover, the most common winter birds in Illinois are Northern Cardinal, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, House Sparrow, House Finch, Mourning Dove, American Goldfinch, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-bellied Woodpecker, and White-breasted Nuthatch.
Other than those, you may encounter other bird species too. However, those are the most common winter birds in Illinois during the winter. Moreover, don’t forget to set up a birdbath with a heater in it beside your bird feeder.