UK gardens are fantastic places for bird spotting, especially in winter! But if you really want to see the birds flocking to your garden all winter long, it’s handy to use your bird knowledge to turn it into a little safe haven where they can rest and refuel. If, however, you don’t have too much knowledge about winter birds, this post will hopefully be able to clear up some of your questions.
I’ve selected five common winter birds to explore in this post. However, although these birds might be ‘common’, it’s still an exciting experience when they select your garden to enjoy come wintertime! There are lots of ways you can make your garden more winter bird-friendly, but let’s have a look at the needs of each bird first:
Did you know that, back in 2015, the robin was unoficially voted the UK’s national bird? It may not be as mighty as the US’s bald eagle, or as colourful as Honduras’ scarlet macaw – but it’s not to be messed with. In fact, for a bird that weighs between just 14-21g, it’s aggressively territorial and very quick to scare away other robins!
Robins love insects such as mealworms, regular worms and beetles. They will also eat fruit, suet, seeds, raisins and sunflower hearts, where they can find them.
Naturally, robins are ground feeders; however, they will eat from bird tables, and also from feeders if they have a flat perch to rest on while they’re picking.
Only slightly larger than robins, chaffinches are one of the most prevalent birds in the UK. Well adapted to urban life, chaffinches are extremely common in gardens; however, it’s likely that you’ll hear them before you see them! They have a loud song and a range of different birdcalls.
A very tame and social bird, the chaffinch will get daringly close to humans if it is fed often. They can even sometimes be fed by hand.
Chaffinches have one of the widest ranges of diets out of the finch family; however, this doesn’t usually extend beyond small, easy-to-extract seeds. If feeding a chaffinch, you can use a range of foods, from chopped peanuts to sunflower hearts.
Probably the most striking bird on this list, the bullfinch will most likely appear in your garden in pairs or small groups. It’s easy to spot – especially the male of the species, with its pink-red chest and jet-black cap.
Bullfinches feed on insects, berries, seeds and buds. Some gardeners see this bird as a bit of a pest, because it’s highly attracted to new fruits growing on trees or bushes – so make sure to cover any fruits that you don’t want to be attacked!
They will happily eat from hanging bird feeders; however, their shy nature means that they will rarely visit a bustling garden, and will be more likely to eat from a hanging feeder in a more secluded area.
Like the chaffinch, the blackbird is a very common bird in the UK. The male of this species lives up to its name with its completely black appearance (save for a bright orange beak), but the female is more of a dark brown colour, often with a speckled breast.
Prolific breeders, blackbirds will rear two to three broods per year, comprising three to five babies which are ready to fledge after around two weeks. That explains the common appearances of this bird throughout the year!
Blackbirds are omnivorous, consuming insects such as caterpillars, beetles, spiders and more, but also plant matter such as berries, fruits and seeds. Like robins, blackbirds are mainly ground foragers.
The sparrow is the only bird on this list to feature on the RSPB’s ‘red list’, which means that the species is globally threatened and has seen a decline in population. The population of the UK house sparrow in particular dropped by 71% between 1977 and 2008, in both rural and urban areas.
Sparrows aren’t very territorial birds, and can create nests as little as 20cm from the next sparrow nest. They tend to nest near to human settlements, feeding on scraps and seeds.
Hatchling sparrows require a diet of insects, but as adults they are vegetarians.
How to feed winter birds
Food is more scarce in winter, which means that it’s important to help birds in order to help them thrive. However, it’s even more important to feed birds the right food, as providing them with non-nutritious meals such as bread will not give them the energy they need to get through this harsh season.
In the winter months, as well as the autumnal months leading up to winter, you can start to feed birds more often – up to twice a day in severe weather conditions. They require high energy foods in winter in order to maintain fat reserves; however, this must be high quality food only.
As always, never let uneaten food sit around bird feeders, as this not only encourages unwanted pests such as rats, but can also make birds sick due to the build up of bacteria and mould.
An all purpose bird-feeder
Sometimes, you might not have enough room in your garden to hang up several bird feeders for each of the different types of birds that visit. If that’s the case, this multi-purpose bird feeder combines several types of feeders into one stand, and even includes a water dish!
This feeder appeals to a range of birds. The robin will happily perch on the feeding dish due to its preference of flat surfaces, while the bullfinch is more than happy to pick its seeds from the hanging feeders. Meanwhile, all birds will benefit from a hydrating visit to the water dish, as they can sometimes dehydrate in the winter when other water sources start to freeze.
Available in sage and black, this is a very beneficial feeder for almost any garden. Find it this month on QVC.