There are hundreds of wild bird species in the UK. Enjoying their company in your garden is both engaging and educational for all ages, and hugely beneficial to your wellbeing. You can spot common visitors such as goldfinches, sparrows, robins and long-tailed tits to name but a few, all offering a variety of colour, activity and song.
There are lots of ways to help this wildlife thrive, especially during the times of year where natural resources are fewer.
Feeding Wild Birds
Small birds need to eat 30-40% of their own body weight daily to remain healthy and happy, but finding the nutrition they need from nature alone can be difficult. You can give them a helping hand all year long, with hanging feeders or bird tables.
Different species have different dietary preferences, so providing a mixture will attract a good variety. Birds such as dunnocks, finches and house sparrows enjoy smaller seeds such as millet, whilst peanuts and sunflower seeds are preferred by robins and tits. A mix including sunflower seeds, flaked maize, pinhead oatmeal and non-salted peanut granules provides the protein and fats essential to all birds’ diets.
In Autumn and Winter, a twice daily supply will help birds establish a routine and keep them prepared to brace the cold and windy weather. Birds disperse oils from their preen gland, which they then spread across their feathers to stay insulated and waterproof, so a higher fat content at this time is beneficial.
In Summer, the amount supplied can be slightly reduced, and it is a good idea to provide a diet higher in protein, which helps with the seasonal process of moulting. Adult birds nurture their young during this time, so be careful not to put out any feed which may be too large (such as whole peanuts) or too high in fat, which is detrimental to chicks’ health.
Practising good hygiene is essential to prevent diseases from spreading. Wearing gloves, wash bird tables regularly, keeping them clear of droppings and accumulated feed.
Birds need less water than mammals as they do not sweat, yet bathing and drinking is still important. Providing water is especially important in Winter and Summer when natural resources can become frozen, or dry up. A birdbath kept clean and algae free with regular washing and refilling is hugely helpful. Icy birdbaths can be defrosted by adding a little hot water, or by moving the bath into a patch of winter sun.
Evergreen shrubs, especially ones with berries such as Holly or Hawthorn, are ideal for providing a safe sanctuary for birds.
Nesting boxes, kept out of direct sunlight and out of reach from pets, can also provide a suitable home.
Tuck bird tables in quiet corners of your garden. A nearby shrub or tree means feeding birds can fly to safety if a predator comes along. Make sure you can see the table from your window, as admiring the birds as they feed is a wonderful pastime.