Food for the birds

Food for the birds

Vaughn Matthews

Birds need that extra bit of help during winter but that doesn't stop them from being very picky eaters...
Join us for half-price

 Fergus Gill/2020VISION

The heating is turned up, the fires are lit and many of us will want to be nestled in the toasty warmth of our duvets until spring arrives. Unfortunately, hibernation isn’t an option for humans and so, each morning, we pull back the curtains to see what kind of world winter has left us.

Some days the soft green grass is sharpened with a crisp rime of ice. On others, thick fat flakes fall from the sky, turning the world into a monochrome scene. Lakes and ponds are encased in ice and small glassy puddles shimmer ready to shatter under the weight of a single footstep.

Grey Squirrel in Park

Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

For a second, you might think the world is completely still… until the illusion is broken by the scamper of a squirrel in search of a winter meal. Its bushy tail billows behind as it bounds around before darting up the nearest tree and out of sight. And in the tops of those same trees perch the inky silhouettes of birds, riding out the cold with their wings tucked against their feathered breasts. Much like the squirrel, they too are in search of food. With the winter world in a constant battle between freeze and thaw, life is a little more challenging.


Gillian Lloyd

Feed the birds:

If you can pry yourself away from the warmth of the house for a few minutes, then putting out some food for the birds is a brilliant way to give nature a helping hand.

What do birds eat? Well the best thing you can do is copy their natural diet which means seeds, nuts and (if you can stomach it) live meal worms! Not all birds eat the same things – the greater the variety of food you put out, the greater the variety of birds you will attract to your garden.

bird feeders

Starling on bird feeder with house in background, UK - Ben Hall/2020VISION

Similarly, each type of bird prefers a different way of feeding. Goldfinches, tits and sparrows like hanging feeders. On the other hand blackbirds, collared doves and thrushes prefer to feed on the ground or at a bird table. Some birds like starlings and chaffinches will also go for a mesh peanut feeder.

Remember to regularly clean your feeders and tables to prevent disease spreading amongst your garden visitors.

bird feeder coconut

Gillian Day

Make your own feeders:

Gather your dry ingredients (seeds, nuts and dried fruit) and mix them with hard fat such as lard or suet.

Take a feeder of your choice – pinecones, coconut shells or even a yoghurt pot – and make two small holes. Run some string though and tie it into a loop so you can hang it later.

Spoon in your mixture and when set, hang it ready for its first winged guest. Make sure you place your feeder in an open spot (away from prying paws).


Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Break the ice:

It isn’t all about food. Birds need water to drink and to stay clean. There are lots of ways to provide fresh water in your garden. You could introduce a bird bath, dig out a pond or simply just put a bowl out each day.

Much like in summer, water is scarce in winter but for the opposite reason. As water freezes on the surface, it quickly becomes hard to access for most wildlife. You can help by breaking the ice or even filling baths and bowls with lukewarm water that won’t freeze as quickly. On the coldest days, this might even need to be done several times a day.

Bird feeders c. Claire Huxley

Bird feeders c. Claire Huxley

If you’re looking for new ways to look after the birds in your garden, visit our partners at Vine House Farm. As well as great seasonal advice, they donate 4% of all sales of their products and wildlife-friendly grown seed to local Wildlife Trusts. It’s twice as good for local wildlife. If you’re a new customer, Vine House Farm also donates £10 to us to bring wildlife back.

WildNet - Janet Packham Photography

Send us your garden bird shots:

Have you had any feathered visitors in your garden or made your own feeder? Send us your bird photos stories to our inbox, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages!