Helping Our Feathered Friends Weather the Cold Winter Months

Most of us will have experienced our first heavy frost of the winter this weekend. The frost will have finally killed off any remaining autumn flowers and foliage. I always find it quite eerie and even somewhat mystical when viewing my frost coated garden with the bare trees under their glistening frosty mantles and the white crunchy lawn stretching into the barren black borders.

Whilst the garden is in it’s dormant winter state and there isn’t much we can do in the realm of classical cultivation horticulture, we can turn our thoughts to those living occupants of our gardens who are struggling to find food during the winter months. Whilst most small mammals and reptiles will hibernate during the colder months, birds are not afforded this luxury and the winter months present a real battle for survival. Birds feathers are wonderful insulators but they need energy from food to create enough body heat to survive the long cold winter nights; this becomes a particularly acute problem when there is a scarcity of food.

What Can I Do To Help?

Growing up I remember we used to put left over crusts of bread out for the birds, whilst this is commendable, too much bread scattered over the lawn can attract unwanted pests such as rats and squirrels. Nowadays a plethora of specially made bird foods and feeders are available for sale at garden centres and supermarkets which will provide your garden birds with an excellent over wintering diet and will give you the pleasure of attracting a diverse range of birds into your garden.

Different Foods and Feeders to Attract Different Types of Bird

Classic mesh type hanging feeders which can be filled with nuts and seeds (some of the more popular are peanuts and sunflower seeds) will attract the tit family including blue tits, coal tits, and great tits; these birds do not need to perch whilst feeding and can eat whilst hovering at any angle making a great spectacle!

Plastic tube feeders with a perch at the bottom can also be filled with sunflower seeds and peanuts – the finch family prefer these feeders as they like to feed whilst perched in an up right position. They also prefer to eat seeds and nuts rather than worms or insects which they only like to eat during their breeding season in spring and summer.

Fat balls can be hung from trees and will particularly attract robins whose staple wild diet is worms and insects so they will be attracted to the suet in the fat balls. The crushed seeds and nuts also contained in the fat balls will help out your other garden birds too.

Many shops sell a three in one feeder which caters for all three types of garden bird feeder.

Top Tip

Squirrels are a notorious nuisance when it comes to garden bird feeders – frequently emptying them out leaving our feathered friends with nought! To keep squirrels away suspend your bird feeder from 18 inches of elastic – the squirrels will not be able to descend down the elastic – try it and see!

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