Birds Blog: Wild Bird Care in Winter

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Wild birds need more food than usual in the winter season. Winter is a good time to attract and observe new visitors to a bird garden.

While keeping winter bird feeders stocked and providing fresh water, there are a variety of methods and alternatives to encourage winter bird visitors to the bird garden. Some ideas are simple and fall into the "how come I didn't think of that?" category, while some are a little more innovative yet increase the chances of success while being very practical.

Wild Bird Food

Most wild birds like seed as part of their diet. Wild bird seed comes in many shapes and sizes and while there are exceptions and caution is advised to avoid unnecessary expense, in general the old maxim of, "getting what one pays for" does apply. Bulk wild bird seed is also worth consideration; a larger variety within the mix should normally help encourage a wider range of winter bird visitors. If time and resource allows, one can also consider creating one's own wild bird feed from scratch using seeds, nuts and other items to make feed, birdcake and their like. If utilising the latter option, attention should be paid to storage as mice and rats are also highly attracted to these foods.

Peanuts are also popular with many birds, especially blackbirds, most tit species, robins and thrushes. There are also increasing numbers of more specialised, even exotic, types of wild bird food available commercially, some aimed at attracting specific types of wild bird. Nevertheless, to attract such birds they need to be in the locale, so it is advisable to set the menu, as it were, according to the bird species normally observed.

One often overlooked source of wild bird foods is the natural live food of earthworms. During winter, the avid gardener may well find it much easier that one might imagine to unearth worms while preparing garden beds, and putting the worms on a tray or bird table will prove highly satisfactory to the local winter bird population!

Winter Bird Feeders

During winter it is advisable to check bird feeders more frequently than in other seasons as the cold and wet weather causes uneaten bird seed and similar bird food to more rapidly congeal and deteriorate so that it becomes messy and useless and ultimately a source of disease. This applies to mesh feeders and particularly the tubular feeders. Often, shy birds can be encouraged to visit a garden by periodically changing the positions of various feeders around the garden.

In other seasons but especially in a mild winter, it is a good idea to ensure that the mesh feeders best for peanuts are placed inside a squirrel-proof cage. One should also keep aware that a compost heap, the ground under a fruit tree or other sheltered area of the garden may become their own natural bird feeders, housing insects that in turn provide a food source for birds, especially in winter.

An interesting way to encourage a wider range of visitors to the bird garden is to split a log or straight thick branch down its centre. After scooping out hollows in it which can be filled with any form of birdcake such as seeds and nuts held in using lard, the flat side can be fastened to a wall or strong fence. Many of the less common bird garden visitors such as woodpeckers will be enticed by this kind of arrangement.
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