This year has been particularly poor for berries and other fruits that many birds rely on, especially blackbirds and thrushes. Other birds search for the seeds left on grasses and flowering plants, or for insects sheltering in piles of leaves and tiny holes in the bark of trees. Feeding the birds in your garden at this time of year will help to supplement their diet when these natural foods are in short supply. It is also a good way to encourage children to learn about wildlife.
Ideal foods are seed mixes, peanuts (never use salted ones) and fat balls. These are fed from various types of feeders and will attract greenfinches, goldfinches, blue tits, great tits, and possibly nuthatches and woodpeckers.
Seed mixes, suet, small pieces of apple, dried fruit and mealworms can be placed on bird tables and will be appreciated by robins, blackbirds, thrushes and starlings.
If too much food is given it may go mouldy, so be sure keep the feeders clean. It is also important to provide a shallow dish of water for drinking and bathing. Change the water regularly and replace it in icy weather.
Creating a variety of habitats in your garden is just as important, this will help to supply them with much of the food they need, and places to shelter. Lawns are good places for blackbirds to search for worms and for starlings to probe for leatherjackets (the larva of craneflies). Shrubs such as cotoneaster and berberis provide welcome winter fruits and if you have an apple tree, leave a few windfalls for the birds. In the flower borders let some seed heads remain on the plants over the winter and don’t be tempted to clear away all the fallen leaves.
Then fill up your bird feeders, sit back and wait. Watching the birds in your garden from the warmth of your sitting room on a cold winter’s day is a real joy.