Cold Weather Tips
Top Ten Tips to help your garden birds survive the cold
A prolonged cold spell can be catastrophic for small garden birds because the fat reserves which normally keep them going for several days, are used up very rapidly.
Replenishing these fat reserves every day becomes a major challenge for them - and the bird food and water that we provide can be the difference between life and death for these small, vulnerable creatures.
Follow these tips and you can help your garden birds survive the worst of the cold and snowy weather:
- Always hang your feeders, or position bird tables and feeding stations, in a sheltered position, where snow is unlikely to build up.
- If there is snow and ice on the ground, help ground-feeding birds like robins and sparrows, by clearing the ground in sheltered places and putting food in these clearings.
- Put out bird food regularly, especially in severe weather. Feed twice daily, if possible – in the early morning and again in the afternoon, before it gets dark.
- Regularly throw away old or sodden bird food and put out fresh supplies. This will prevent the build-up of bacteria and toxins that can harm birds.
- Always ensure that there is a good supply of clean water for your garden birds to drink. Replace it as soon as it freezes and if the weather is very cold, use tepid water - but NEVER use any ant-freeze products, which can be poisonous.
- A steady supply of clean water will also allow your birds to bathe regularly. They need to do this all year round – even in winter – to keep their feathers in good condition.
- Suet is energy-rich and therefore a very valuable food for birds in cold weather. So hang out fat balls, suet pellets and suet blocks – and remember to crumble some on the ground or on bird tables for ground-feeders.
- Other high-energy bird foods which will sustain your feathered friends in winter include sunflower hearts, sunflower seeds and peanuts.
- Unwanted kitchen scraps, especially those that are high in fat, can provide life-saving nutrition for garden birds. Put out chopped up apples and pears, dried fruit, pastry, cooked potatoes and mild cheese. But don’t put out salted food, which is toxic for birds or bread, which fills up their stomachs without giving them the fat and protein they need. You can put scraps on the ground or bird table.
- In cold weather, put up nest boxes or roosting pouches to provide roost sites for smaller birds. These will then be used for breeding later in the year.