Feeding Your Birds In Winter

DSCF0100aFeeding the wild birds in your garden can be life-saving for many species over winter and through bad weather and food shortages.  Wild birds are great for organic gardens, if you support birds in your garden over winter they will help your pest control over the summer, great for both of you.

Autumn can provide abundant food for birds, but after this sources of food can become scarce, it is essential we feed or native and visiting birds over the winter.  Birds have very little fat reserves, quality, high fat foods can keep them going through freezing nights.

Tips for feeding your birds:

Where to feed

  • Different species of birds have different feeding habits, so it’s useful to provide a variety of feeders.
  • Tits love hanging food, put peanut feeders near shrubs and bushes but out of the way of cats. Don’t put food near nest boxes as it can put off nesting birds.  Bird tables are appealing to many types of birds, try to get one that is not too easy for cats to climb.
  • Some birds like to eat off the ground; you can use a low table or just scatter food on the ground. Make sure it’s not close to where cats can hide and there is nothing left for the rodents at night.
  • Use your imagination! Smear fat or suet into cracks and hole of fences or trees or use plastic cups to make bells feeders.
  • Finally make sure you don’t forget fresh water, especially when everywhere is frozen.

What to feed

  • Bird seed mixes that are high in sunflower seeds and peanuts. Millet, maize and pinhead oatmeal are also good in these mixes.
  • Black sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts, are believed to be the most popular food among garden birds and have a higher oil content than other sunflower seeds.
  • Peanuts are rich in fat and are popular with tits, greenfinches, house sparrows, nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers, robins, dunnocks and even wrens. Peanuts can be high in a natural toxin, which can kill birds, so buy guaranteed aflatoxin free seeds.
  • Nyger seeds have a very high oil content and are a favourite of goldfinches.
  • Suet, fat and birds cakes are an excellent high fat food source in winter. Use on your bird table, hang from feeders, trees and bushes.
  • Insects such as mealworms are relished by robins and blue tits, and may attract other insect-eating birds such as pied wagtails.
  • Rice and cereals are readily available sources of food. Soft, cooked, unsalted rice is eaten by most species over the winter. Uncooked porridge oats and other cereals are also an acceptable food.
  • Soaked bread, stale but not mouldy bread is fine, it needs to be moist as dried bread can swell in the stomach.
  • Leftovers – cake crumbs, bones from meat joints etc.
  • Apples, these are fine on the ground, feeding tables or hung from trees etc.
  • You can also make your garden a natural source of bird food, ivy, holly and honeysuckle provide berries and you can grow your own sunflowers for use later in the year.

 

And finally birds need need good hygiene as much as we do. Your successful feeding will attract plenty of birds to your garden and this make diseases more easily spread. Try and only put the right amount of food out daily. Don’t leave food out on the floor, rodents can spread disease to birds and people. Clean up areas of dropping and don’t let them get mixed up with the food and water. Finally clean and disinfect tables and feeders regularly.

Wildlife Gardening

Natural Habitats for British wildlife are rapidly decreasing, why not help by turning your garden into a wildlife haven. A diverse eco-system in your garden can provide habitats for a wonderful variety of wildlife and is a great form of natural pest control.

The important needs of wildlife in any garden are shelter, protection from predators, food and water. We have put together a few handy hints to provide these and get your wildlife haven going.

  1. Firstly, GO ORGANIC. Reducing the use of pesticides will encourage more insects and birds to visit your garden.
  2. Leave a wild corner in your garden. This doesn’t need to be a ‘messy area’ pick a place you don’t normally go, like behind the shed or compost heap. Let nettles grow, these have many uses for the organic gardener and they can attract beneficial insects and butterflies. Nettles and brambles also provide cover for larger mammals like hedgehogs.
  3. Build a pond. Even a small pond or water feature can provide a drink or a habitat for many species. Native wetland and bog plants also thrive in areas around ponds. By encouraging more frogs into your little oasis you can keep the rampaging slugs at bay.
  4. Plant a bee border. The British bee population has suffered massive losses over the past few years and bees are vital for the pollination of our plants. Try planting a range of nectar rich and native plants, here are a few ideas;
  5. Plant a butterly border. This border will need plenty of sun and shelter. Butterflies love nectar rich plants. Why not try the following;
  6. Make a mini meadow. Leave part of your lawn unmown, this will act as protection for frogs, mice and snakes. Why not try planting some native grasses and wild flowers too as these are rapidly declining from our fields.
  7. Leave some leaf litter. Leaf litter makes a great mulch but can also provide some shelter for some insects and spiders over winter and will also attract ground foraging birds.
  8. Plant a hedgerow or grow a thicket. They can provide shelter, nesting sites, food and protection. Hawthorns, roses and blackberries are all great for this.
  9. Create extra wildlife habitats. Supplement your natural habitats with bat and hedgehog boxes, nesting boxes for birds, lady birds, butterflies and lacewings. These can be added to even the smallest garden and can make a huge difference to the populations in your area.
  10. Grow climbing plants to provide shelter, roosting and breeding sites for birds. Ivy is great for this and will also provide nectar for insects in Autumn and fruit for birds in late winter.
  11. Create a log pile. Don’t just burn or throw away dead wood it can attract beetles, beneficial insects and mosses. Frogs and toad also enjoy a nice damp pile of logs for shelter too.