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Winged Wonderland: Managing your Land for Winter Birds

When winter comes around, it feels as if everything slows down. Days get shorter, the weather gets gloomier, and plant growth diminishes. This isn’t much of a problem for people with our modern amenities, but for wildlife the resulting lack of food and housing can be disastrous.

As a landowner, you can create a winter wonderland for wildlife. Thoughtfully landscaping your property can ensure both habitat and food for our favorite critters, and it’s easier than you think!

1) Identify Your Priority Species

  • Do you like to use your land to hunt? Perhaps manage for Wild Turkey or Ruffed Grouse.

  • Are you an avid bird watcher? Planting berry-producing vines, bushes, & trees can draw flocks of Cedar Waxwings and Bohemian Waxwings to your land.

  • Do you want to support at-risk species? Climate change is making some classic species rarer. Consider improving nesting habitat and increasing food sources to help out species such as the Snow Bunting and the Common Raven.

Answering questions like those above can help you identify which species you’d like to see on your land. Once you know that, you can implement management practices that could turn your land into a winter wonderland for our winged friends.

2) Scope out Your Property

Snag at Tamarack Nature Center

Now that you’ve identified which bird species you’d like to target, take a moment to get to know your land. Scope out your property to see what you already have and identify what crucial elements your wildlife may be missing. Ask yourself: What is there to eat? Where can birds nest? What types of land are on my property (forest, prairie, wetland, etc.)?

Common habitat features to look out for are standing dead trees (snags) and conifer stands. If a tree has died on your property, consider leaving it standing to serve as a vital nesting habitat. Species such as Pileated Woodpeckers and Black-capped Chickadees prefer to nest in tree cavities. Conifer stands also make for great nesting habitat and are used most often by species such as the Northern Shrike and the Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Berry-producing trees, bushes, and vines are important food sources to keep an eye out for*. If you don’t have any, consider visiting your local garden center to see if you can plant some when the weather warms up this spring. Learn more about berry-producing species to plant.

* Note: Some invasive species produce berries that are detrimental to wildlife. If you find buckthorn or oriental bittersweet on your land, consider taking action to remove them and replanting the area with native, wildlife-friendly plant species.

3) Plan Your Management

Although now is not an ideal time to plant, it is a great time to plan. Once you’ve identified actions you’d like to take, you can start taking steps to implement them. Common actions include planting trees, installing bird feeders, creating edge habitat, and removing invasive species. 

If you would like aid in achieving your management goals, there is funding and professional support available to you. Contact Alexis Monti, Climate Resiliency Specialist, at to learn more.

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