How to Help the Birds in Autumn and Winter

So many of us have reconnected with nature this year, from hearing the bird song all around us for the first time, to creating wildlife havens and hedgehog highways in our gardens.

Children in particular have delighted in discovering the world around them in the past few months.

Kids will love keeping their connection to nature going, so if you are wondering how to help birds this autumn and winter, read on.

How to Help Birds in Autumn & Winter

As the weather gets colder many birds struggle to find sufficient food and adequate shelter. On cold and windy nights, many will perish.

But there are many ways we can help our favourite garden birds and autumn and winter visitors.

Helping birds (and other wildlife) starts in your garden where leaving things a bit untidy is the best thing to do.

With the days getting shorter and colder as we head towards mid-winter, birds need more energy to keep warm but there are less daylight hours for them to find all the food they need.

This is why we tend to see them in our gardens more over the autumn and winter months; a ready source of food.

Keep Your Garden Wild

Our gardens are a more ready source of food than the countryside, with plenty of insects and other food sources available.

As well as hopefully some water, and even shelter.

To help our little feathered guests, try to resist the urge to be a super-tidy gardener!

You can do this by leaving hedges and trees full of berries alone and leaving plants with seeds such as sunflowers standing through winter.

Dense hedges like hawthorn and privet are great for providing shelter from harsh weather, and those traditional Christmas plants, holly and ivy, are perfect for growing out to provide shelter.

Like all animals, birds need three things to survive: food, water and shelter.

If you can supply food, a bird bath or shallow dish of water in a safe place, and a cosy nest box for a cold winter's night, you will have some very happy visitors!

What to Feed Birds in Autumn and Winter

If you can set up a bird table or some bird feeders in your garden, get that done as soon as possible.

Then make sure you keep it topped up with various food types for different birds to enjoy over the coming months.

Sunflower seeds are one of the best foods for many birds, but add a feeder full of niger seeds too, as well as dried mealworms, peanuts and fat balls or slabs.

You can also leave out kitchen scraps such as fruit that is bruised, cooked rice, roast potatoes, mild grated cheese and any unsalted bits of hard fat.

You could also make your own bird feeder or hang fat balls around your garden trees.

Many birds will also like porridge oats, mixed seeds and unsalted peanuts.

These calorie-dense foods are perfect for keeping birds healthy and giving them energy.

Do not leave out any runny fat as it can harm birds' feathers.

Don't pout cooked porridge oats, milk, dried coconut, salty foods or anything mouldy out either.

Water and Shelter for Birds

Birds also need fresh water to drink and to bathe in, so supply a bird bath or a shallow dish of water in a safe place, well away from cats.

Remember to change the water regularly to keep it fresh.

When the mercury plummets, float a ping-pong ball or similar on the surface of the water to prevent it freezing over.

This is a great science lesson for the kids too!

The movement of the ball, from even the slightest breeze, will stop the surface freezing over.

This is a handy tip for a fish pond too as it will prevent the water freezing over.

Although, dependent on the depth of your pond, you may need to move your fish if the temperature drops towards or below freezing.

Nesting boxes are a great addition to any garden and will be used by birds on cold nights as well as during breeding season next spring and summer.

According to the RSPB, a record 63 wrens were found packed in together in one nesting box for warmth!

There is much we can do to help our garden birds survive the winter, and none of it costs us humans a great deal.

Especially for the amount of pleasure we gain from seeing all those tiny visitors outside our windows for months to come.

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