Bird in snowy tree

How To Feed Garden Birds In Winter

Feeding the birds in your garden in winter can be lifesaving

Your garden can be a lifesaver in winter; giving you the chance to see birds which usually inhabit the countryside coming into urban areas in search of food. Your feeding station can make the difference between life and death when the ground is frozen or underneath a blanket of snow. Migrant birds come down from the colder north and often make a spectacular flock; to make finding food easier and to retain warmth at night by huddling together. They have to maintain their body fat supplies in order to survive the winter. Some small birds, such as Blue Tits and Goldcrests, have to eat as much as 30% of their body weight every day. Providing a balanced menu of seeds, insects, berries and clean drinking water should cater for as wide a range of birds as possible.

Waxwing in tree with berries

Do’s

  • Position the feeder somewhere quiet with trees or shrubs nearby; prickly shrubs are important as they provide a safe haven where cats can’t reach the birds
  • Put a baffle on the upright holding the feed station to deter cats and squirrels
  • Provide clean drinking water, make sure it is kept ice free
  • Provide: fatballs; fruit (dried or fresh); cooked rice, pasta or potato; seeds; unsalted nuts; sunflower hearts; porridge oats; mealworms
  • Do keep the feeders clean, leaving the food to go mouldy will attract bacteria
  • Regularly clean up any spilled food as it will attract rats and mice
  • Feed the birds in the morning as any food uneaten will attract rodents

Blackcap

Don’ts

  • Don’t position the feeder too close to trees and shrubs where cats can creep up to the birds unseen
  • Don’t feed crusts or bread as it contains very little nutrition and only attracts the thuggish gulls, which will frighten off the smaller birds
  • Don’t feed grain with a lot of wheat, small birds don’t really like it and it tends to attract a lot of pigeons and Jackdaws
  • Don’t put out any leftover meat
  • Don’t put salt or sugar in the water to stop it freezing

Do not put anti-freeze in any garden water features as it not only kills the birds but also any household pets and wildlife

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas