How to Feed Ground-Feeding Birds in the Snow

Last Updated on July 18, 2021 by Nancie

Feeding White-Throated Sparrow & Dark-Eyed Juncos seed under a patio umbrella in the snow
(White-Throated Sparrow & Dark-Eyed Juncos in the Snow Under a Patio Umbrella)

How do you feed ground-feeding birds like sparrows in heavy snow? If you toss some seed on the ground as usual, it might be snow-covered within minutes. Birds won’t be able to see it and so might find it challenging to eat. The solution? Provide some cover!

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Provide Cover For Ground-Feeding Birds

it is snowing heavily here in Maryland today. It won’t last much longer, but until it stops, the snow keeps covering the seed I put out on the ground for the sparrows. What to do?

When we get snow that threatens to cover the ground, I get creative about where I toss the seed. Prime locations in my own yard include:

  • Window ledges under the house eaves
  • On the ground under an old picnic table
  • Underneath garden benches
  • Beneath a patio umbrella (as long as the snow doesn’t get too heavy for the umbrella fabric)

While even these areas can start to get snow-covered if it snows long enough, they tend not to get buried as deep. As long as local birds watch you spread the seed there, ground-feeding birds like Dark-Eyed Juncos, White-Throats and other sparrows are likely to gather in these covered places to eat. Bonus points for spots that make it harder for a hawk to swoop down on them as they eat!

Note: If you can shovel a bare spot on a sidewalk or the ground before you toss the seed on the ground, it makes the seed easier to find and tends to keep it a little drier.

Seed Spread Under Garden Benches lets Ground-Feeding Birds like sparrows eat in the snow
Seed Spread Under Garden Benches in the Snow

Cautions on Spreading Seed on the Ground

1) It’s easy to get over enthusiastic on snowy days and spread out too much seed. Try to keep it to as much as you think is likely to actually get eaten in a day so it does not rot on the wet ground.

2) Seed on the ground can attract large mixed flocks of “blackbirds” on snowy days. Common Grackles, Brown-Headed Cowbirds, European Starlings and Red-Winged Blackbirds have to eat too, but they can be a bit much when they arrive in a huge flock and often push other birds out. While I mostly spread white proso millet for the local sparrows, when the big annoying flocks arrive, I switch to nyjer seed instead. Most of my local sparrows are willing to eat it and the big mixed “blackbird” flocks don’t.

(Need help in deciding what birdseed to offer? Check my post “Seed Choice: What Do Backyard Birds Eat?” Also see FeederWatch’s interactive page to learn which common birds in your area prefer eating on the ground.)

Feeding Ground-Feeding Sparrows on a Snowy Day

How do you offer seed to ground -feeding birds like sparrows when snow is covering the ground? Have you found good spots that work well for this in your yard? Please feel welcome to comment below.


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