Caring For Wild Birds in Winter
Shelter For Birds in Winter
Requirements For a Good Winter Birdhouse:
- Must be able to open the birdhouse up for cleaning.
- Must have ventilation holes at the bottom.
- Must have a slanted roof to allow for runoff.
- Must not have perches. Cavity-nesting birds do not need them and they allow predator access to the nest.
- Placing the birdhouse on a pole will help to discourage predators. The house should face south or southwest so it is facing away from the direction of most bad weather. It should get direct sun for a good part of the day.
- At the end of autumn, be sure to clean out the old nesting material.
There is a shortage of nesting sites for cavity-nesting birds, due to land development, introduction of competing species like starlings, and the use of pesticides.
The use of birdhouses and nesting boxes has helped many species make a comeback. Landscaping that provides shelter can also be a great help. Evergreen trees and shrubs provide a welcome resting place out of the wind, snow or rain.
Placing food and water near these nesting or "respite" areas allows them to make shorter journeys for these things, which means less time battling the elements and using up their energy reserves. More than 50 species of birds will use birdhouses.
Food For Birds in Winter
Filled with high energy food, feeding stations give birds a chance of making it through to spring, as natural food is in short supply. A couple of carefully situated stations will ensure your garden soon becomes a magnet to a varied range of birds. After winter, continue to put out food, especially when birds are nest-building or raising young.
Which Feeding Station?
To attract a good range of birds, you only need to find space for a few different feeding stations. A traditional bird table will be popular with a wide variety of birds, while a ground-feeding station (best avoided if you have cats!) is preferred by robins, blackbirds and thrushes. Hanging feeders are loved by blue tits and great tits, but if you don't have trees, buy a pole fitted with a single or double hook pushed into a border, or mounted in a stand on a patio.
Choice of Food
The greater selection you put out, the more birds you will attract. Blue tits, great tits, siskins and nuthatches like peanuts, while robins and wrens love meal worms. Mixed seeds are perfect for house sparrows, blue tits and chaffinches, and nyjer seeds are ideal for goldfinches. Old fruit can be put on the lawn or ground-feeder for blackbirds.
Where To Put Them
Birds will only feed if they feel safe. They need clear visibility of the garden so it is easy to fly to cover. If possible, place close to trees, shrubs or hedges. If you have cats, avoid putting feeders above ground-covering shrubs; your pet could lie in wait and mount an ambush!
Water For Birds in Winter
The easiest thing to provide is water. Bird baths need to be topped up, cleaned and prevented from freezing over.
How To Stop Your Bird Bath From Freezing:
- Place a light ball on the water in the bird bath; this can be moved by the softest of breezes and will keep a small amount of water ice-free.
- Line baths with a polythene sheet overlapping the edge slightly; you will then be able to lift it out along with the ice.
- Heated bird baths are an option for anyone wanting a technological solution.
- Move your bird bath to areas of the garden that receive high levels of sunlight.
- Or try the old favourite - simply pour on hot water to melt the ice in your bird bath!
Download the Caring For Wild Birds in Winter Guide: