How to Look After Birds During Winter
As the nights draw in and the weather gets colder, it’s important to make sure you’re doing all you can to help look after the birds that frequent your garden. And whilst some of these things may seem like common sense, you might just find a few hints and tips that you hadn’t thought of before…
Switch up the food you’re feeding them
Once winters hits, it’s time to start leaving out more calorie rich foods for birds. This is because finding natural sources of food can be hard so you need to make sure that what you’re leaving them is going to sustain them.
For example, you can start leaving out mixed seed, fat balls, and peanuts. Alternatively, you might want to try porridge oats, cooked pasta, or suet pellets (available in a range of flavours, too) – it’s worth trying a number of options to see which ones the birds prefer.
If you opt for the first three options, please make sure you don’t buy the ones with netting on them – this can actually be quite dangerous for birds as their beaks can get stuck in it.
Increase how much food you leave out
As well as switching up the food you’re feeding the birds, it’s also a great idea to start leaving a little more than you normally would. Firstly, it’s better to leave out too much than too little, in winter. Secondly, birds tend to flock together in winter, to improve their chances of finding food – plus it gives them a sense of security.
So leave out more than you think you might need to encourage them to eat. Plus it means if some pesky squirrels end up eating some of the food, there’s plenty left for the birds.
Keep your feeders open and safe
It’s cold, it’s dark, the birds are hungry… the last thing they want to do is struggle to get to the food you’ve left out for them. So keep your feeders out in the open, where you can see them and where the birds can keep their eyes peeled for any potential threats, like next doors cat.
There are a wide range of ways you can leave food – bird tables, feeder stations, live food feeders, for example. Bird feeding stations are a great idea as they mean you can put them exactly where you want them in your garden. Plus they can hold a water tray as well, so the birds can get everything they need in one safe place.
Whichever option you choose, it’s important to keep it clean. This helps to reduce the chances of disease or cross infection with the bird; particularly something called trichomoniasis, which is spread through feeders and water. To clean them, all you need to do is rinse them thoroughly with warm water before allowing them to dry completely before refilling them.
Make sure your water doesn’t freeze
During winter, birds need access to fresh water – not just to drink but also to wash in – so you need to make sure it doesn’t freeze over.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to put something light that will float in the water (this could be a ping pong ball, a twig – anything). And because whatever you put in the water will keep moving in the breeze, which means the water isn’t able to freeze.
Keep an eye on the water as it might need topping up occasionally or you may need to remove leaves or debris. And if you do find that there’s ice in the water – perhaps the twig has fallen out or been taken by a bird trying to build a nest – try and get remove it as quickly as possible.
Put a birdhouse up
If you haven’t already put a birdhouse up, it’s definitely something worth doing in autumn and winter. This will give them a safe place to stay cosy during the cold weather.
When working out where to put your birdhouse, it’s worth making sure it’s going to avoid facing the sun during the day. And, in order for the birds to get into the birdhouse, make sure there’s a clear flight path – if you spot any leaves or branches blocking the opening, please do trim them away.
With a wide range of birdhouses available, you’re bound to find one that suits your space and budget – whatever you can do will help.
As you can see, these tips are simple to put in place – you might even be doing something similar already and just need to change it up a little – but they will make a huge difference to the birds that visit your garden.