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40 ways to help your garden birds this winter

From the magazine...
As the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch enters its 40th year, Steve and Ann Toon have come up with 40 great ways you can help your garden birds this winter

Blackbird with an apple_59004Pictured above: a blackbird on farm

More than half a million people are expected to take part in the world’s largest garden bird survey at the end of this month. It’s a mammoth effort to help our garden birds at a time of year when they need us the most. 

Last year, more than eight million garden birds were recorded in the RSPB’s record-breaking annual Big Garden Birdwatch, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The Birdwatch takes places at the height of winter (this year on 26-28 January), when harsh conditions force birds to visit our gardens more frequently in the search for food. 

Over the event, people are encouraged to take just one hour of their time to watch and note down the birds they see in their garden or local park. The data is then collected by the RSPB and used to help guide and inform its future conservation strategies.

Garden birds need to feed at an accelerated rate in winter and some species need to consume as much as 30 per cent of their body weight during daylight hours simply to survive the season’s long, cold nights. 

Given the fact that over the past 25 years or so, many garden bird species have seen their numbers dwindle, we’ve come up with 40 different ways you can do your bit to help the birds in your garden this winter – one for every year of the RSPB’s popular survey.

1. Birds need a reliable supply of supplementary food to get through the difficult winter months, so try to ensure you offer them a regular delivery service; refill feeders promptly, and twice daily if required when the weather’s really bad, as birds need to refuel quickly after very snowy conditions. Stick to a regular feeding time, as the birds will get used to the most rewarding time to come into your garden.

2. Plant your garden with bushes, trees and shrubs that produce berries in winter to provide an extra supply of tasty treats for local and passing birds. Malus, pyracantha, cotoneaster, rowan and honeysuckle all do the trick.

3. With so much emphasis on feeding birds in the cold weather, shelter, which is equally important for garden birds, can get overlooked. The RSPB recommends planting thick hedges such as hawthorn or privet and letting holly and ivy grow in your garden to provide birds with cosy cover to roost in.

4. Aim to provide a variety of different bird seeds, nuts, grains and fats to satisfy the needs of as wide a range of different species as you can. 

Blackbird feeding on hawthorn and a bird feeding table_59005

5. If you’re starting out, a small selection of hanging feeders and a bird table are an obvious choice to begin with. Try to place these in a bird-friendly, sheltered position; close to nearby bushes, shrubs or trees so the birds can use these as a jumping-off point or seek cover if

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Related categories: Birds Gardening

Last edited:15 August 2019 at 12:14