Winter is notoriously a difficult time of year for garden birds, and figures from bird monitoring schemes suggest that populations of the most widespread species have dropped by around 421 million across Europe since 1980. Food is hard to come by in winter, making it extremely important that we do everything we can to encourage birds into our gardens throughout the winter. Here, Adrian Nind, Managing Director at Bakker Spalding Garden Company, provides four top tips for making your garden bird-friendly.
Feed the birds!
There has long been a downward trend of birds in gardens in the UK. Since 1979, starlings visiting gardens in winter have dropped by 84% since the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch began. During the cold weather, food can become scarce for birds so we need to give them a helping hand.
Don’t forget that birds will only feed where they feel safe, so always place the food approximately 1.75m high in a place with an open view, and implement squirrel baffles to keep squirrels away.
Make your garden somewhere to forage
In addition to providing bird seed and leftover food, there are a variety of plants and trees which can attract birds to your garden and provide food throughout the winter. It’s important to create somewhere for birds to forage and feed in our gardens.
Make sure you wait to tidy borders and cut shrubs until late winter and early spring – this will help retain seeds and fruit for birds. Fruiting bushes are also a great source of food for birds during the winter, so don’t prune too much just yet!
Encourage safe habitats
Make sure that any bird boxes in your garden have ventilation holes at the top and drainage holes below. They should also be placed out of danger of any predators. During the winter, nest boxes should be cleared of any old nest material to prevent pests and diseases spreading to next year’s occupants, but now is a good time to start ensuring that you have suitable nesting materials available in your garden. One of our customers is known to regularly groom her dog and place all the fur from the brush into her hedges for the birds to nest with.
Keep water sources clean and accessible
Alongside a supply of food, birds need to have access to a supply of water all year round – not just to drink, but also to bathe and keep their feathers in good condition. Ponds provide water for birds and attract additional wildlife to your garden. However, it is likely they may freeze over throughout winter so remember to break up any ice in harsh weather. If a bird bath gets completely frozen, remove all the ice and refill so that the birds always have access to some water.
Check out Susie White’s gardening pages each week in My Weekly. Here’s a peek at this week’s issue…