BBC Autumnwatch 2017

October 24, 2017

What to feed your birds this winter?

October 24, 2017

Attracting Autumn birds to your garden

October 24, 2017

Autumn brings all sorts of changes to your garden, and with it comes a whole bunch of different wildlife visitors, particularly bird species. Garden birds benefit from feeding all year round, but the colder months are a time of vulnerability for them, and therefore it is the perfect opportunity for providing supplementary food.

Of course, with many of this season’s visitors migrating from Northern Europe, and similarly colder climes, they will be seeking better food and warmer shelter.

Interestingly, our gardens use up more land than all the UK nature reserves put together, so they can be a powerful collective tool for helping many of our most beloved bird species. In fact, they serve as ideal feeding and breeding grounds for the likes of starlings, siskins, bramblings, robins, chaffinches and goldcrests, or for them to stop by in the colder months as trees and hedgerows become sparse of food.

Birds to look out for in Autumn

The variety of species you’ll see during the Autumn and Winter months will be dependent on the size of your garden, how bird friendly it is and how close you are to countryside or wooded parkland. Many birds have certain food preferences, so selecting different types can often dictate which species you may observe in your garden. As always, the general rule of thumb is to feed often and with diversity to maximise the variety of birds to your garden.

But back to brass tacks. Here’s our list of ten autumn birds for you to attract this autumn. Enjoy.

Starlings

Starlings are seen regularly throughout the year but are particularly common in autumn as large flocks arrive to spend the winter months here.  

Learn more about Starlings

Star steht auf einem Tisch

Siskins

For many of us, these lively little finches are most commonly seen in our gardens during the colder months. This is due to population increases from the migration of other Siskins from Europe and the substantial lack of spruce, pine, birch and alder seeds from its natural coniferous territory during this time of year.  

Learn more about Siskins

Male Siskin, (Spinus spinus)

Bramblings

Bramblings are predominantly spotted in the colder months and are well known as our winter migrant to the UK, with the vast majority of them arriving in the UK in late September.

Brambling at wintertime in UK

Coal tits

Smaller than our common resident Blue and Great tits, Coal tits have become more regular visitors to garden feeders in recent years.  Coal tits become much more mobile in the autumn months but are less likely to stay on a feeder for any amount of time. You’ll often see them darting across the garden to snatch a seed - flying away to either eat it or to store it.

Learn more about Coal tits

In nature on a stick there is a coal tit

Great tits & Blue tits

One of the most common signs of Autumn and Winter approaching is the increasing numbers of Blue tit and Great tits. Both are a common and well recognised breed in the UK but expect to see numbers increase in the colder months as more of the species join from north Europe.

Learn more about Blue tits and  Great tits

Great tit on a wooden post

Song thrush

Previously a common bird in UK gardens, the Song thrush population has declined by over 50% throughout the last 40 years. They are partially migratory, with many of them wintering in southern Europe, and North Africa, although some will stay in Britain. Their diet includes worms, insects, berries and snails - you’ll often see them smashing the shells off rocks.

Learn more about the Song thrush

Song thrush (Turdus philomelos) in spring against fuzzy background, Poland, Europe

Robins

Most British robins are sedentary, defending their territories year-round, with many females also establishing their own winter territories. During the Autumn and Winter months, only a handful will head South so we can expect to see a number of them visiting over the coming months.

Learn more about Robins

 

Robin, A sweet and very popular little bird. (erithacus rubecula).

Chaffinches

Chaffinches are often found in more open areas in Autumn and Winter, when large groups of visiting birds search for seeds to sustain them through the winter. Despite this they do commonly visit the garden, preferring to forage on the ground beneath bird tables, or under hedges.

Learn more about Chaffinches

In the Finch sitting on a tree with green needles in early spring reflected in the water

Goldcrests

Despite their tiny size (weighing just 5-7g) Goldcrests are highly migratory with a large number arriving on the East coast of Britain every Autumn. The species are almost completely insectivorous, with insects - particularly spiders -  forming a large part of their diet. Goldfinches rarely venture into the garden but when they do they are likely to feed from the ground.

Learn more about Goldcrests

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) on branch, the Netherlands

Hints and tips on feeders and shelters

To entice an array of bird species into visiting the garden it’s also important to provide a variety of ways for birds to receive food and shelter. For example, larger garden birds will struggle to land on and feed from hanging feeders and may prefer ground based feeding. 

Provide as many types of bird feeders as you can including a combination of hanging feeders, ground placed feeders and wall mounted stations to suit birds of all sizes and species. You should also ensure that you clean feeders once a month with warm water and sanitisers. Similarly you should throw away any wet or mouldy seeds and nuts to avoid spreading or inciting disease.

 

Birdhouse on a birch tree, hand made

Shelter

Providing effective shelters for your garden visitors can help them survive even the coldest nights. Whilst birds do have many ways to keep warm during the Autumn and Winter months, dropping temperatures and freezing rain or snowfall can be fatal if they don’t have minimal protection.

You could consider installing roost boxes, winter bird houses or roosting pockets.  Regardless to the type of shelter offered for winter birds, you should take into consideration the following when placing shelters for garden birds:

  1. Position shelters in a south facing position to take advantage of the heat from the winter sun.
  2. Provide insulating materials in winter bird houses and shelters such as dry grass or nesting wool.
  3. Paint roost boxes or bird houses dark colours to retain and absorb heat. Neutral tones will also help to camouflage.

Water

Keeping water from icing over can be problematic at this time of year. Birds need to drink regularly and they will also continue to bathe during the winter months to keep feathers in good condition and to maximise their heat retention.

  • If possible, move your bird bath to a sunnier area of the garden or you could add a dark sheeting to the bottom of the bird bath to absorb heat and sunlight.
  • Add a tennis ball or ping pong ball to the water - the ball's motion will help break up any ice as it forms.
  • Keep your bird bath topped up and checked on each day.

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3 comments

  1. Quite cross. fed my garden birds, all through last winter. but this summer they have eaten ALL my fruit of the bushes. No gooseberries, blackcurrant, red currant , raspberries or loganberries !!

  2. Someone recommended I use old net curtains over my blueberry bush and it worked a treat.
    I had at 1st put nylon netting over but the birds were still getting to the berries and my friend also said they can get themselves stuck in the netting.
    I would say ask around your friend to see if any have net curtains they don’t need any more and give it a try.
    I am new to feeding birds as I had a cat and I am loving watching the birds come and go.

  3. I get mostly goldfinches in my garden and what a joy it is to see them devouring the sunflower hearts. No so the nigella seed which they ignore, they obviously haven’t read the press writeups!