Winter is, without a doubt, the most challenging time of year for British garden birds. Many spend months building up their fat reserves ahead of the cold snap. However, sadly for some, this isn’t enough, and many don’t make it through to the following spring. Our winter bird guide will teach you how to care for birds when they need it most. With some proper-know how, the correct food and a bit of TLC, you really can make the difference between life and death for these birds.
One of the most pressing issues our garden birds face in winter is energy; in particular, trying to reserve it. To help them with this, ensure all the food you buy is hull and husk free, as otherwise it takes quite some effort to get into. This type of food will also keep the area underneath your feeders free from mess and debris.
Feed according to demand, especially when you start feeding and in wet and cold weather. Offer food for a short period to start with to prevent wastage; once the birds have found your feeder, you can adjust the amount you feed accordingly.
What to choose
Choose energy-rich bird food that contains suet, nuts and oil-rich seed such as sunflower hearts. Peckish Daily Goodness Nuggets are a great choice as they can be presented in feeders, on bird tables or ground feeders, so that every type of bird can benefit. Each nugget contains a nutritious combination of high-energy suet, seeds and high protein mealworms, mimicking a natural diet and providing birds with the energy and nutrients they need to stay healthy. Feed daily and increase the quantity during especially cold and icy weather.
Offer more than one type of food if you can: Robins like mealworms, Bullfinches prefer nyjer seeds and some prefer insects, fruit and berries.
Water is essential in this period, especially because many people wrongly assume that with the cold, wet weather, water is easy to come by. In fact, due to the frost, many water sources will be inaccessible, which is why water trays and baths for birds should be checked and have their water replaced every day. Birds will still need to bathe in this season for the health of their skin and feathers, so a water source in your garden is essential.
Although nest boxes aren’t traditionally meant to be occupied until the following spring, winter is a great time to put them up. Not only does it allow birds to get used to them as a potential nesting spot, but birds may also choose to roost in there when the weather gets particularly bad.
To transform your nest box into a safe roosting box, you need to follow a few simple steps:
- Clean them out thoroughly, adding any old nest material to the compost heap.
- Check that they’re fully functional without any leaks or cracks. If so, fix them.
- Introduce a couple of string sticks into your nest box to create a roosting perch.
- Cover the bottom of the box with a generous layer of clean dry leaves, moss or sawdust.