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Winter Bird Watching in Pennsylvania

Winter bird watching can be great fun and the perfect way to spend those lazy winter days. In Pennsylvania, there are over 30 different species of birds that can be seen at bird houses and feeders throughout the winter months.

A terrific activity is trying to see how many you can identify in your yard or favorite birding location. The number and diversity of birds you ultimately see will vary based on your location and surrounding, with wooded areas usually seeing a greater number of species.

According to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, one back yard in SE Pennsylvania saw 25 different bird species over a single winter season, but this is not typical of most locations.

The best way to learn how to identify birds in your yard or your feeder is to acquaint yourself with the most common species and to get a field guide so you can identify the not so common ones. You can usually find good field guides at bookstores, local libraries, or at sites on the internet. But to get started, you can easily just research and learn about the most common species of birds and how you can go about attracting them to your yard.

Common Pennsylvania Birds

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the 10 most common birds seen at Pennsylvania feeders in the winter are as follows:

1. Dark-Eyed Junco

dark eyed junco

2. Mourning Dove

mourning dove

3. Tufted Titmouse

tufted titmouse

4. Northern Cardinal

northern cardinal

5. Blue Jay

blue jay

6. White Breasted Nuthatch

White breasted nuthatch

7. Downy Woodpecker

downy woodpecker

8. House Finch

house finch bird pa

9. American Goldfinch

american goldfinch

10. Black-Capped Chickadee

black capped chickadee

Attracting Birds

To attract birds, you should set up feeders with a variety of different seeds and foods. There is a huge variety of bird food you can buy, and each will attract a different species of birds. For example, black-oil sunflower seeds are popular with the Titmice, Nuthatches, Chickadees, and other small species. Jaybirds and Cardinals like the striped sunflower seeds. Peanuts can be used to attract Blue Jays, Chickadees, Titmice, and Woodpeckers. Other popular seeds include white proso millet and thistle. White proso millet is popular with many birders because it is inexpensive, but should not be used if you don’t want to attract birds like the House Sparrow and Brown-Headed Cowbird. Thistle or niger seed can be used to attract finches. You can also purchase seed mixes that can be used to attract a variety of different species. In my opinion, if you are going to buy one type of seed, the one to go with is the black-oil sunflower seed which attracts many popular smaller species of birds.

Bird watching or birding in the winter can be great fun and a cure to those winter blues. A great activity is to keep a notebook of the dates and times that you have identified certain species of birds. Try observing at different times of the day and using different seeds to see what kind of birds find your location.

Additional Resources:

Peterson Field Guide to Birds