When it comes to winter, there are few things that you should consider if you want to look after the birds that visit your garden in winter. If you’re currently leaving out food and water, it’s a case of making simple changes that could make a big difference to the birds.
Keep things out in the open
You may already be doing this but, if not, it’s worth keeping your bird feeders and water out in the open. This is worthwhile for a few reasons….
Firstly, it means the birds are able to access it with ease. Secondly, it gives them protection – it allows them to see any potential predators that may be creeping up on them and gives them the opportunity to escape. And thirdly, it means you’re able to clearly see if it needs topping up or replacing.
You can choose from a number of ways to leave food, so you won’t have a problem finding the solution that works best for you. You might want to look at bird tables, live food feeders or, as we would recommend, feeder stations – these allow you to easily put the food and water in one safe place.
It’s time for calorie-rich foods
With the colder weather, it can be harder for birds to find their usual food sources such as worms and insects. This means that whatever you leave out for them has to be even more calorific in order to sustain them.
So as well as leaving out things such as peanuts or mixed seed, you should also incorporate fat balls, cooked pasta, and suet products, such as suet pellets. You can even mix up the flavours from berry to insect, so you can see which ones the birds prefer!
Top Tip: Avoid using peanuts, mixed seed, or fat balls that have netting on them. Although these might seem like quite a good idea, birds can actually get their beaks caught in them.
Watch out for your water
The last thing a bird wants is to fly to some water, only to find that it’s frozen over and they can’t get a drink – so watch out for your water. The colder the weather gets, the more likely it is that your water will freeze and develop a thin layer of ice on it.
To stop this from happening, all you have to do is place a small object that floats into the water bowl – perhaps a table tennis ball or a twig. Because the objects are light, they’ll float around in the water with the breeze, which makes it harder for ice to develop. If it does ice over, just get rid of the ice and top it up a little.
That brings us nicely onto the next point… don’t forget to top up your water regularly and try to keep it clear of any debris or muck.
Leave out more food than usual
As well as leaving out foods that are richer and higher in calories than usual, it’s also worth leaving more food than usual. This is because it’s going to be harder for birds to catch their regular food so they’re more likely to eat more if they find some left out.
Many birds will also flock together during the winter – it makes it easier to find food and also adds an element of safety for them too. This will mean that whereas in summer you might get the odd few eating the food you left out, chances are in winter there will be more.
And, of course, you might find that the birds aren’t the only ones eating the food… squirrels also have a tendency to eat it too.
Consider a birdhouse
You might already have a birdhouse up but if you don’t, autumn and winter are definitely the times to start putting one up. It gives birds a cosy place to rest away from the cold weather – plus it’s a lot safer for them too.
If you can, try and put it up somewhere that’s not facing the sun during the day and is easy to get to. The birds will need a clear flight path so if you tuck it away behind lots of leaves and branches, they’re either going to ignore it or get into difficulty trying to fly in.
Keep an eye on it too – sometimes leaves and branches will grow over it. If that’s the case, just trim them away if you can.
As mentioned at the start, you might already be doing some of these things already – if so, all you need to do is tweak what you’re doing slightly. If you’ve not got anything in place, don’t worry; all the tips mentioned are easy to do but they really will mean a lot for any birds you get in your garden over the winter.
Article is by Melisa Greenfield who works alongside Vine House Farm Ltd
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