Feeding the birds in winter

Small scraps and fresh water make all the difference to our feathered friends

It seems we are in the middle of what is likely to be a pretty cold winter – which means many of the birds that visit our gardens in search of food will be much more dependant on the scraps we leave on our bird tables.

Natural food sources, such as insects, worms, berries and seeds will become scarce.
So if you already have a bird table, ensure you regularly top it up with a selection of food and treats to keep a variety of different garden birds fed.

A wild bird seed mixture on your bird table, along with a hanging feeder containing peanuts and suet balls, will ensure a good balance. You can also consider putting out suitable household scraps from your kitchen, such as cake crumbs, small fatty scraps, pieces of cheese and moistened bread.

Regular visitors to my own bird table this year have included blue tits, wagtails, sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes and the gardener’s favourite: the robin. I even had the
pleasure of a woodpecker on my lawn last summer.

If you have never fed the birds in your garden, then now is the time to start. You could consider investing in a proper feeding station or bird table, as there is an endless choice available. However, a simple stake in the ground, with a flat piece of wood firmly secured on the top to form a feeding area, would be sufficient. A covered roof is beneficial to keep the food dry. The main priority is to ensure that the feeding station is positioned in an open area and high enough to prevent cats and squirrels from being able to jump on to the table from the ground or from nearby obstacles.

Invest in a purpose-made wooden, metal or plastic hanging feeder to suspend from your bird table or trees, as some birds prefer to feed from these.

Inspect and replenish the food on your bird table daily, and provide fresh water, either in a birdbath or even in a clean upturned dustbin lid.

Many birds can suffer from a lack of fresh water, especially during cold weather when their normal source is frozen. On these days ensure that you replenish the water supply throughout the day.