Winter is a difficult time for birds – they need to find food for energy and to build fat stores to keep warm through long, cold nights. Smaller birds need to eat up to a third of their bodyweight each day.
There are two ways in which you can feed birds in winter. Firstly you can grow plants that will provide them with food, such as berries and seeds, and other plants that will provide a habitat for insects that they can eat.
Discover 10 plants for birds.
Secondly, you can provide birds with supplementary food in bird feeders – especially useful during winter and early spring, when natural foods are in short supply, and snow and ice can make accessing them harder. But it’s worth making sure that feeders are kept topped up all year round, as birds will get used to them and it saves them making a wasted journey.
Here are some ways to feed your garden birds.
Grow berried plants
Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants. These are an important part of a bird’s diet – they help them to endure long periods of physical activity. Discover 10 berried plants for birds.
Crimson berberis berries
Provide the right foods
Sunflower hearts and seeds, nyjer seeds, seed mixes, peanuts or suet? Different types of food suit different birds. Watch our No Fuss video guide to the different types of bird food.
Blue tits on a bird feeder containing peanuts
Grow your own bird food
Many plants not only look good but provide abundant, easy-to-access food for birds. This means they don’t waste precious energy looking for food. Both the plants and the birds will add winter interest to your garden. Discover how to grow your own bird food.
Magenta Cirsium rivulare flowers
Make your own fat balls
Birds love fat cakes, especially in winter – they give them energy and keep them warm. But the feeding balls needn’t be shop bought; you can use all sorts of kitchen scraps such as cheese and dry porridge oats. Discover how to make fat cakes for birds.
Home-making fat balls for birds
Make a simple feeder
Make a simple feeder using terracotta pots packed with fat cakes to attract a variety of birds, including great tits. Discover how to make a hanging bird feeder.
A home-made terracotta pot bird feeder
Don’t forget to provide fresh water for birds – they will drink it and bathe in it, even in winter. Bathing helps them keep their feathers pristine and insulating. Make sure it doesn’t freeze over.