Fresh, Regular Water is Vital to Birds

BBC Autumn Watch 2015 – Highlights

Winter is coming: Helping your garden birds this season

October 26, 2015
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Autumn is a crucial preparation time for garden birds anticipating the coming winter, during which exposure is at its peak and food is scarce. During winter, garden birds will not be able to forage for food and water in frozen ground and ponds. Nor can they search for insects carefully hidden during hibernation in foliage.

Combined with the fact that the temperature causes them to lose their body heat much faster and fewer daylight hours meaning a reduced amount of time to look for food, sustenance will prove difficult to find. You can help your garden birds by taking the following steps.

Winter Feeding for Birds

Provide your garden birds with the right kinds and variety of saturated fat-rich food, such as:

Sunflower hearts, a favourite of sparrows, finches and nuthatches due to their high oil content

Unsalted peanuts are high in fats and protein (salted peanuts are not safe for bird consumption)

Soft fruit such as apples, pears, bananas, have a high water content and are energy-rich with simple sugars

Niger seed (requires a niger seed feeder) is rich in fat and oil

Suet offers birds much needed calories and is available in lots of blends so will appeal to a range of birds

Mealworms, available live and dried, are a great source of protein

Fat balls are a great high-calories source of energy

Remember to completely omit salt from the food you provide, since salt will dehydrate the birds even further.

Fruity Fat Balls

Dried Mealworms

Whole & Split Peanuts

Sunflower Seeds & Hearts

Water for birds

Aside from food, water will also be very difficult to come by, especially when winter frost is at its peak. You can help your garden birds by providing them with clean water every day for them to drink and bathe. In order to prevent the water from freezing, place the bird bath where it receives direct sunlight and put a ping-pong ball on the surface.

Borderstone Bird Baths

Chapelwood Bird Baths

Eastern Connection Bird Baths

Shop All Bird Baths

Bird Feeders

Bird feeders are essential for feeding many kinds of garden birds. Make sure you take these precautions when setting one up:

  • Set up a bird feeder in a quiet area, preferably close to trees.
  • Set up metal fittings to prevent unwanted pests such as squirrels from eating your birds’ precious food.
  • Remember to clean it regularly to avoid bacteria build up and remove uneaten food.
  • Fill the feeders once a day at around midday, or two times if the weather is severe because during winter birds get only 7-8 hours of daylight.

Suet Ball Feeders

Nut Feeders

Seed Feeders

Squirrel Proof Feeders

Aside from putting food in bird feeders, you can take several simple steps to help provide sustenance for your feathered friends. Avoid cutting down trees with berries until March, such as ivy, honeysuckle, and hedges so that the birds can eat these much-needed berries for longer during winter.

Also ensure that you scatter some food in your garden for ground foragers, or leave it underneath an umbrella if it snows, hails or rains. You can also gather piles of leaves and leave them in various spots around your garden for larger birds so they can look for hibernating insects.

Nest Boxes

There are several kinds of shelter you can provide your garden birds with during winter:

Bird nesting boxes are excellent for providing smaller birds with shelter, as well as a place to mate in later during spring.

Roosting baskets are also an alternative.

Create brush, rock, and woodpiles with lots of nooks and crannies to provide garden birds with little pockets of shelter.

Remember to put shelter in places where it is shaded by trees or buildings during the day, and don’t put it in direct sunlight and where strong winds can directly blow in. You can put shelter in eaves, porches, and overhangs if your garden has no trees.

Wildlife World Teapot Nest Box

Wildlife World Tahera Nester

Dovecote Nest Box

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  1. We love cardinals, in the wetinr set against the snow and in the summer set against the green lawn. We had a male and female cardinal stop by our mulberry tree. So beautiful, the female with her hint of red and the male covered in crimson. Nicely captured!

  2. MAUREEN, We have this problem, (as well as peacocks! which we don’t mind, although they wake you with their deep-throated calls!)
    so I fashioned a tray under the feeder, on one it is a cut-down plastic biscuit box, hanging below the feeder on bicycle spokes and below that a fat-ball to give enough counter-weight for the smaller birds, but not enough for pigeons etc., the nuthatch likes coming to this tray, and to another a 1 gallon thick plastic plastic container, cut down to about ½ an inch high, and drainage holes drilled in all 4 corners to prevent storing rain water. This MINIMISES the spreading of seeds, though I swept the back yesterday, Tuesday, 27th, and they were mostly the husks from the black sunflower seeds, which I’ve found they like the best. I DO feed the doves/pigeons, but from a window-ledge, where I have a feeder stuck on the window, they get used to coming when you’re not actually there, I can send photos if you like?

    1. Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for explaining your technique to us. Do you have an image of your adapted feeder? We’re quite curious what this looks like!


      Garden and Wildlife Direct

  3. Hi Maureen,

    We’ve got an upcoming article about how to keep your feeding areas clean to prevent this sort of thing – keep your eyes peeled!

  4. Hello
    I,love feeding birds, but the spent seed on the floor attracts Rats so now I don’t feed the birds…. It’s a vicious circle
    Any advice please