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Keeping Wild Birds Healthy in Cold Weather

winter birds feeding

Winter in the UK can be a challenging time for our feathered friends. As temperatures plummet and natural food sources become scarce, wild birds rely heavily on bird feeders to survive the cold months.

Understanding the Needs of Winter Birds

During winter, birds require high-energy (high-fat) foods to maintain their fat reserves to survive the frosty nights. Natural food sources are limited, and the energy required to forage increases.

Recommended Winter Foods

Fat Balls and Suet Feeders: Fat balls or suet feeders provide a high-calorie diet, essential for maintaining energy levels. These can be purchased from stores or created at home by blending lard or suet with a mixture of seeds and grains.

Sunflower Seeds: Rich in oil, sunflower seeds serve as an excellent energy source. Especially nutritious, the black sunflower seeds possess thinner shells, making them easier for small birds to eat.

Peanuts: Peanuts, rich in fat content, are an excellent food choice during winter. Packed with healthy fats, they’re more than just a snack; they’re a winter essential that supports your body through the colder months. It is important to get unsalted peanuts to guarantee their aflatoxin-free nature.

Mixed Seed Feeds: A good quality mixed seed blend provides varied nutrition. Avoid mixes with large amounts of filler seeds like lentils or dried rice, which are less beneficial for birds.

Mealworms: Mealworms, whether they’re alive or dried, provide a significant protein boost, which is beneficial for birds, like robins and blue tits, that primarily consume insects.

Fresh Water: It’s important to provide a supply of clean water for both drinking and bathing, essential in maintaining the health and appearance of feathers.

Feeder Maintenance in Winter

Regular Cleaning: To prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria and mould, it is important to clean feeders on a regular basis. A mild disinfectant can be an effective solution for efficient disinfection.

Frost-Proofing: Water sources and wet feed have the potential to freeze. To protect the feed from snow and rain, it’s advisable to use covered feeders. Additionally, to avoid the complete freezing of water in dishes, you can use a small floating object like a ping pong ball.

Positioning: To minimise the effects of severe weather conditions, position the feeders in a secure area that is easily visible to birds and inaccessible to potential predators.

Multiple Feeding Stations: Having multiple feeding stations not only reduces overcrowding and the spread of diseases, but also caters to the different feeding habits of different species.

Encouraging a Variety of Species

Various species exhibit distinct feeding preferences. Dunnocks and blackbirds, for example, benefit from food scattered on the ground or placed on a ground tray. On the other hand, hanging feeders tend to attract tits and finches.

Feeding garden birds in the winter has two benefits: it helps them survive the harsh months and brings joy and colour to our gardens. By providing the right food and maintaining a safe feeding area, we can greatly improve the well-being of these birds. As the cold weather approaches, let’s take the time to refill the feeders and enjoy the lively atmosphere that follows.

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