Updated: May 24
Winter is a challenging time for birds, as natural food such as berries and insects become scarce. Harsh weather, habitat loss and winter pruning of hedgerows make it difficult for birds to find food. This period between January and February, known as the "hungry gap," is when bird feeding play an essential role in helping birds to survive until spring. Whether you are an experienced birdwatcher or just starting out, there are several ways you can support garden birds during the winter months. One of the most straightforward ways to help birds is by providing food.
There are many types of bird feeders and birdseed available, and it's good idea to choose multiple different types of feeders to provide food for greater variety of bird species. For example, tube feeders are great for small birds such as Blue Tits, while hopper feeders are suitable for larger birds like Chaffinches and House sparrows.
When it comes to birdseed, sunflower seeds are a staple that will attract a wide variety of birds to your feeders. Other popular birdseed options include millet, thistle, and safflower. Suet cakes and fat balls are a high-fat food that will provide birds with the energy they need to survive the winter. Please avoid fat balls in nets as these can harm the wild birds. Much safer and eco-friendly are loose fat balls and fat ball feeders.
In addition to feeding birds, it's also important to provide a source of fresh water. Remember to check and replenish water during freezing weather as the bird bath and ponds freeze easily.
Another way to support birds during the hungry gap is by providing shelter. Birdhouses can provide birds with a warm, protected place to rest and escape the elements.
In addition to providing food, water, and shelter, you can also support birds by planting native trees and shrubs that produce berries and seeds. This not only provides food for birds, but it also supports the local ecosystem and creates a habitat for wildlife.
Another way to support birds during the hungry gap is by reducing the use of pesticides and herbicides in your garden and farm. These toxic chemicals do not only harm "pest" but affect whole biodiversity and humans too. Recent study linked pesticide use with decline in garden birds in UK. Instead, consider using natural and organic methods, such as hand-pulling weeds, mulching or accepting the weed as part of healthy garden ecosystem.
Finally, it's essential to be patient and persistent when it comes to winter bird feeding. It may take some time for birds to discover your feeders, but once they do, they will return year after year. It's important to keep your feeders and birdhouses clean and well-stocked, as a dirty feeder can spread disease and an empty feeder won't attract birds.
The hungry gap is a challenging time for birds, but there are many ways we all can help them to survive until spring. By providing food, water, shelter, and a safe habitat, you can make a real difference in the lives of these beautiful creatures. Whether you are an experienced birdwatcher or just starting out, winter bird feeding is a fun and rewarding activity that can connect you with nature and help support the birds in your garden.
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