While many people think most, if not all, birds fly south in the winter, all you have to do is take a look around to see that many of our feathered friends stick around through even the coldest months. Whether a particular type of bird flies south for the winter depends mainly on one thing: what type of food it eats.

In areas that have cold winters, some common bird foods, such as nectar and insects, may not be available year-round. Birds that eat those foods must fly south to find food to survive. Other birds that eat seeds or bugs that live under tree bark often hang around, since they can continue to find food all winter long.

While some birds instinctively migrate at certain times of the year, scientists believe birds won’t fly south without specific environmental cues, the reason being lack of food. As long as food remains available, some birds will delay migration or won’t leave at all.

In fact, some experts believe the widespread use of bird feeders may allow some species of birds to stop migrating and become year-round residents.

The National Bird-Feeding Society sponsors National Bird-Feeding Month every February. Why February? It’s one of the most difficult months in the United States for wild birds to survive.

Throughout February, the society encourages people to provide food, water and shelter to help wild birds survive.

No matter where you live, there are always birds that you can feed. Many families have learned that backyard bird-feeding can become a fun, educational and inexpensive hobby.

Adults find watching birds to be relaxing and peaceful. Kids enjoy learning about different types of birds and what they eat.

Feeding wild birds in the backyard can be as simple as mounting a basic feeder outside a window and filling it with birdseed mix. Common birdseed blends usually contain a mixture of nine major seed types: black-oil sunflower, cracked corn, sunflower hearts, thistle, striped sunflower, red milo, safflower, white proso millet and whole peanuts.

Of course, as you learn more about the birds in your area, you can always add additional feeders and experiment with different types of seed to try to attract new birds to your yard.

More than 55 million adults in the United States feed birds around their home, which makes bird-feeding the second most popular hobby in the country after gardening.

Give it a try and you’ll soon learn that bird-feeding isn’t just for the birds. Your family also benefits by bringing nature’s most beautiful sights and sounds to your backyard.


12 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (15 votes, avg. 3.53 out of 5)
    • We’re glad you learned something from this Wonder of the Day, Logan! Next time you see those birds flying, you’ll know why they’re headed South! :-)

  1. I like birds do you! I once heard a bird in front of me chirping at me when I was climbing but nothing was there. It was weird.

  2. Just wondering, who wrote this? I’d like to use this information for a school project, but want to properly cite it.

    • Hey there, Maryann! We’re so glad you enjoyed this Wonder and you plan to use it in a school project. You may cite Wonderopolis as the author (which is part of the National Center for Family Literacy), and it was published on February 24, 2011. :)

    • Great job, Gabby, we’re so glad you summarized what you learned with us today! HOORAY for you!

      We Wonder, if you were a bird, where would you like to fly? :)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,
    What a great website. Thanks for the website, the good info about birds flying south for the winter and the fine example of self support.
    That teaches our kids not to go the entitlement route. You are a great example in so many ways. God Bless You real good. Actually, He already has I pray He will continue.

    • Welcome, Ron Leggett! Thanks for the nice note. We are glad you enjoyed WONDERopolis and learned new information! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do all birds fly south in the winter?
  • Why do birds migrate?
  • What types of seeds do birds like to eat?

Wonder Gallery

small red cardinal_shutterstock_62724856Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Bird-feeding doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. From finches to falcons, our fine feathered friends favor food in feeders to foraging for themselves.

Ready to do your part during National Bird-Feeding Month? Check out the links below to explore some fun, inexpensive ideas to create your own backyard bird feeders!

You can also watch these videos to learn how to make bird feeders out of a plastic bottle or a pine cone! If you really want to do your feathered friends a favor, provide a source of water they can use to drink and bathe in.


Still Wondering

Explore the relationship between a bird’s beak and its ability to find food and survive in a given environment with Science NetLinks’ Bird Beaks lesson.


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