Spare a thought for our wild feathered friends during the cold snap and set up a bird feeder in your garden to provide them with much-needed food, not to mention some great entertainment for you! Natural food supplies, such as insects, are dead or dormant and many other sources are scarce during the winter months, but when the weather takes a turn for the worse birds struggle to keep warm and seriously benefit from additional food stores.
During the winter many birds alter their eating habits, adding berries and higher fat food to supplement their diets. As birds are warm-blooded, they maintain their body temperature through a number of tricks when it gets cold – fluffing up their feathers to create air pockets, standing on one leg and finding sheltered spots – but it is by regulating their metabolic process through fat stores that they are most successful. During the cold weather they eat fatty, calorific, rich food which builds up their reserves and keeps out the cold, and this is where you can help by providing a variety of treats to help them stay insulated.
How to feed
Ideally hanging feeders should be positioned on a sheltered easterly or southeasterly facing wall near a row of trees, but if you can’t match all these requirements it is best to opt for somewhere secluded near a perching spot, i.e. a bush or tree, so that the birds can scour for prey before diving in to feast. Ground feeders encourage sparrows, thrushes and dunnocks, but be sure to site them away from cover for prey, such as cats, to change the location every so often and remove uneaten food each night to avoid attracting vermin.
You can either buy a ready-made birdseed mix, or choose a few seeds favoured in your garden and make your own selection with added suet, mealworm and fruit. Clean your bird feeders out weekly and avoid leaving out a surplus of food which will attract unwanted visitors.
What to feed
If you are looking to attract a certain species, read our blog on what to feed to attract specific birds, otherwise put out a variety of high fat and high calorie foods to entice a wide range of birds, all looking to build fat reserves for winter warmth.
Sunflower Seeds & Hearts
Black sunflower seeds are the most popular of the sunflower seeds as they have thinner shells and higher oil content than the normal variety, making them an easily accessible high energy food. However, the downside of this favourite of greenfinches and tits is the pile of husks left below the feeder, and so sunflower hearts offer birds direct access to the food without the mess.
Suet is a pure fat substance which comes in many forms to provide an easy, high calorie food for winter insulation. We offer suet in the form of fat balls, cakes and logs, all of which fit in different styles of feeders, or you can buy suet pellets in bug or berry flavour to mix in with any other seed mixes.
Peanuts are another high calorie substance which is packed with oils and proteins and appeals to many common garden birds such as jays and nuthatches. They don’t freeze and so are ideal for feeding during the colder months, either shelled or ground as granules. We also stock the popular Flutter Butter feeders which are an easy way to store a peanut butter mix particularly suitable for birds over the winter.
Also known as thistle seed, nyger is a calorific oily seed which helps birds store fat over the winter, and is particularly popular with finches and those with delicate bills due to its small size.
Not actual worms, mealworms are the larval stage of a beetle and are very popular for wild birds as they provide a good source of nutrients.
Although many fruit feeding birds will migrate away over the winter, those that stay will enjoy a sweet treat every now and then, so offer some chopped apples, orange wedges, banana slices and halved grapes on a platform feeder, or add dried fruit to a suet and seed mix.
As well as fresh food, make sure you offer a supply of clean water and replace on a daily basis to avoid any contamination or transmission of diseases.
Written by: Lucy EllisPhoto credit: Kenneth Hagemeyer, Bird Feeder 2 copy, via https://www.flickr.com/photos/azparrot/6663829403/in/photostream/