Keeping garden birds healthy in winter

Posted on: 16 January 2019 by 50connect editorial

With a cold snap forecast, spare a thought for your garden visitors and read our ideas for some high calorie treats to help them through winter.

Blue tit winter feeding

This has been a very mild winter but forecasters are warning of an approaching cold snap that will bring widespread frost and in the north snow. So this is the ideal time to ensure your feeders are full and your bird tables are clean and your garden birds win the battle against the cold winter months ahead.

Many of us already regularly put out tasty treats like bread, peanuts and seeds. These foods are of course helpful and always welcome but there are several other simple activities we can all do that will really benefit the birds.

You don't need to have a traditional garden to be able to help. If you live in a flat why not put up a window feeder or plant up a window box with nectaring plants? If you have a courtyard garden, putting up a bird table or encouraging climbing plants to grow up your walls will help.

You can do as little or as much as you have time for. Just providig a little food, water and shelter can really help birds and turn your garden into a wildlife haven for you to enjoy, that's far more fascinating than watching TV!

Bird feeder

Top 10 tips for healthy, happy garden birds

1. Introduce a bird table and high calorie seed mixes. This can also be used to put out kitchen scraps such as animal fats, grated cheese, over ripe and soaked dried fruit. You can be creative with the food you supply, nuts and seeds are great but why not spice up your birds' diets by putting out rice, bread or even non-salty bacon!

2. Put out hanging feeders filled with black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, sunflower-rich mixes or unsalted peanuts.

3. Monitor your food supply carefully. If the food takes days to clear either from containers or the ground, reduce the amount of food offered.

4. Place your feeder and/or bird table no less than two metres from a tall shrub, fence or mature tree. This provides the birds with protection if threatened by predators.

5. Plant berry-bearing trees and shrubs such as hawthorn, rowan, holly, cotoneaster, honeysuckle and ivy. These will provide birds with somewhere to shelter and nests, fruit to feed on and attract insects for the birds to eat.

6. Cultivated and wild flowering plants such as sunflowers, evening primrose, teasel, groundsel and shepherd's purse proved seeds and attract insects for birds to feed on. Leave the stems to provide shelter for insects over winter, before cutting down in early spring.

7. Ensure a supply of fresh water every day, you could even build a pond! If it is very cold use tepid water but do not use any antifreeze products or other additives.

8. Fat blocks of seeds or fat hung up or rubbed into the bark of trees will feed many species, including treecreepers, goldcrest and woodpeckers.

9. Allow your lawn to grow slightly longer. If possible, provide areas of grass of different heights which are cut at different times of the year to optimise food potential for birds. Leave an area of long grass over winter.

10. Ensure you clean you bird table and feeder regularly to ensure food particles and droppings do not build up. This will minimize the risk of disease.

To help you find out more about the birds in your garden, the RSPB publishes information on the types of birds you can attract and lots of hints and tips on what types of foods you can supply and you can even get messy learning how to make bird cake!

For further information and event listings, please visit the RSPB website:

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