Other than providing a big screen TV for my cat, I feed the birds in the winter because they need some help! Bird metabolism moves so fast that they have to eat a lot all the time, and more in the winter to keep warm. When you put out a feeder, after a few days they realize there is food there and will come to get seeds. Strewing some seed on the ground is a help to get them to come to your feeder too.
Strewing some seed on the ground is a good idea in general, cos some birds don’t like to get into feeders, and will only eat from the ground. Our snowbirds, slate colored juncos, is one type that doesn’t like to eat except from the ground.
Here’s a picture from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark-eyed_Junco
Many brightly colored and interesting birds will come to your feeder even if you don’t buy expensive seeds. It does help to add one of those suet blocks in a cage, cos that provides oil to the birds, and helps keep them warm.
There’s one pretty little bird who’s called nuthatch, and also the upside down bird. Nuthatches go up and down trees with no regard as to whether they’re upside down, or not!
Wikipedia identifies many types of nuthatches, but this is the type we have in PA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuthatch
Black capped chicadee is one of my favorites, just because they are so cute. Wikipedia also has a good article about them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black-capped_Chickadee
We also get cardinals, blue jays, tufted titmouse, and downy woodpeckers here frequently.
We also get squirrels, LOTS of squirrels. If you ever have squirrels around, don’t buy a wooden bird feeder, cos squirrels will destroy them! I’d suggest a metal feeder that’s built like a cage, where the birds can get thru the openings, but squirrel feet and legs can’t. VERY frustrating for the squirrels!
Drop them some stale bread on the ground so they have food too. Or, if you want to have the most fun you can have with an empty peanut butter jar, put that out (without the lid) where the squirrels can find it and watch the fun! They are so comical trying to get the last of the peanut butter out of the jar, even trying to claw their way thru the closed end of the jar.
Sometimes you can also unknowingly provide birds with a winter home. I have a small basket hanging on my back porch, with a couple of lawn tools in it. The porch is enclosed on 3 sides, so it sheltered from wind and wet weather. The last couple springs a pair of Carolina wrens have tried building a next is that basket, and have given up each year, I guess cos there’s too much activity in and out the back door.
Several times lately, when I went out to take out garbage, one or both of that pair of Carolina wrens have flown out of that basket. Just now, bird wings brushed my hair and it was such a neat sound. They are spending the night in the basket, and I’m happy to provide a place for them to stay, where it’s a little safer, a little warmer, and protected from the winter weather. If I was ever tempted to move the basker, I won’t be moving it for sure now. It’s somebody’s home!