How to look after your garden birds this winter
Britain’s birds are suffering unprecedented habitat loss, putting pressure on species to survive, especially during the harsh winter months. There are a few easy things you can do to attract and support your garden birds this winter. Provide them with the right high-energy, nutritious food such as seeds and suet balls, or install a bird bath which will provide both drinking and bathing water. Here we offer our top tips for attracting and looking your garden birds this winter.
What is the best food for garden birds?
If you only do one thing this year to support our feathered friends, it should be to provide them with a plenty of nutritious food. High-energy food is essential to keeping birds healthy during our difficult winter months when food is scarce and giving them what they need to survive doesn’t need to be expensive. Garden birds will thrive on kitchen scraps – cheese, dried fruit, porridge oats, cooked pasta and even the fat trimmings from unsalted meat are perfect for sustaining energy levels.
Live mealworms and waxworms are also a perfect nutritious treat for garden birds and are available in most good garden centres.
Or, if you’re feeling creative, baking a batch of suet balls studded with seeds and nuts is simple, nutritious and the mixture can be poured into half a coconut shell or other sturdy container, to be used time and time again. This is a fun activity for the whole family and placing these in your garden will encourage birds to flock in droves!
Should I invest in a bird table?
Scatter overripe fruit onto your lawn for ground-feeding birds such as thrushes and blackbirds, or invest in a bird table, which will allow birds to feed safely away from predators and provide a constant place for them to refuel. Sparrows, chaffinches, blue tits and robins will be back time and time again if you keep your bird table topped up with their favourite food. Keep your bird table clean by using a non-toxic cleaner or vinegar to remove any build-up of dirt.
Remember to remove wet and soggy bird food from your garden though as this can be poisonous to birds and mammals such as squirrels and hedgehogs.
What is the best bird bath for my garden?
Throughout the year, garden birds need plenty of fresh water available for drinking and bathing. A bird bath will provide a safe place for them to find fresh water, which is especially important during particularly dry spells and during the winter when natural supplies may be frozen. With hundreds available on the market it’s difficult to know which one to choose.
Here our top three things to look out for when choosing a bird bath:
- Shallow, sloping sides will help birds enter the water safely
- Choose a material that birds can grip onto – stone is a great option
- A large bird bath will allow more birds to use your bird bath at any one time
Haddonstone’s cast stone bird baths are stylish and offer safe and generous bathing to garden birds.
Submerge some gravel and place a few stones in the water to allow birds to hop in and out of the water. Remember to regularly remove any dirty, stagnant water and to top up your bird bath with fresh, clean water – during hotter spells you may need to do this at least daily.
How do I look after my bird bath in the winter?
To prevent your bird bath from freezing during freezing conditions, simply place a tennis ball into the water – this will gently agitate the water to prevent it from freezing. You can also line your bird bath with a plastic sheet or a strong bin bag and fill it with fresh drinking water. This can then be lifted out and refilled with clean water as and when it freezes over.
Finally, avoid the use of chemicals at all costs – whilst abrasive cleaners are very effective, they can poison wildlife in your garden and can even prevent feathers from being waterproof.
A bird bath is the perfect addition to bring any nature-lover’s garden to life and you will be surprised how quickly these simple additions will help transform any outside space into an oasis for many common bird varieties.
Which garden plants do birds like?
Add some colour to your garden and please your garden birds at the same time by introducing these plants and shrubs that will offer natural food to our feathered friends:
- Sunflowers – stunning throughout the summer, these bright family favourites will also provide a nourishing treat for seed-eating garden birds as they fade. Leave the flower heads in place for smaller garden birds such as finches and sparrows to peck away at.
- Honeysuckle – a firm favourite in many UK gardens, climbing honeysuckle will fill your garden with a sweet bouquet throughout the summer and attract insects, which in turn, provides a good source of food for birds. Established, larger honeysuckle plants will provide shelter for smaller birds such as thrushes, whilst its autumn berries are also adored by many types of common garden birds.
- Holly – the red berries produced by the female holly bush ripen in late autumn and offers rich pickings to a host of garden birds. Blackbirds, redwings and song thrushes are just some of the native garden varieties that will flock to this plant in late winter when other sources of food are sparse.
Birds will be more than happy to help you keep your garden pruned. Leave a few dead heads on your plants for birds to feed off the seeds, or avoid clearing up all the garden leaves and debris, so that they can forage for bugs.