How to Protect Garden Wildlife in Winter
During the winter, garden wildlife is particularly vulnerable. Cold weather means less food, chilly temperatures and fewer places to hide from predators. Some of our bird gifts are perfect for helping garden birds through the winter. But here are a few other tips on how to protect garden wildlife during the coldest months of the year:
Defrost Water Sources
Insects, birds and mammals need clean drinking water. Leave out a bowl of fresh water every day. If you have a pond, defrost it on particularly cold days. Rest a warm pan on the ice to create a drinking hole. Don’t use boiling water or break the ice as this can harm creatures living in your pond.
Avoid Cutting Back Perennials
Your garden may look a little unruly but all of that extra foliage is providing a much needed hiding place for garden wildlife. Avoid cutting back your shrubs for as long as possible. You could even consider adding a few new shrubs to the garden. Because perennials are so hardy they don’t mind being planted during the winter.
Leave out a Regular Source of Food
The birds and mammals who visit you garden come to rely on the food you leave for them. Their usual food sources are scarce and they need lots of energy to maintain their body heat. If you’re in the habit of leaving out food, be sure to continue during the winter, including fatty food options when you can. This is when your garden wildlife needs your help most.
Create Leaf Piles
Gather leaves from your lawn and place them in piles at the borders or corners of your garden. These leaf piles will attract insects. Ground-feeding birds will love to turn over the leaves looking for a tasty snack.
Choose Christmas Traditions Wisely
Many shops now sell “reindeer food”, which children are encouraged to sprinkle on the lawn as a treat for Santa’s helpers on Christmas Eve. But many of these food packs include glitter and foil. These could be damaging to birds and mammals who are liable to eat them along with the other edible ingredients. The RSPCA recommends making your own reindeer food mix – a great Christmas tradition that could help rather than hinder your garden wildlife.
Surviving the British winter is tough for many species of wildlife. By doing a little garden maintenance and providing a helping hand, you can protect your garden wildlife and ensure they make it through to spring.
- Nikki Boxwild
Feeding the Birds in Winter
Winter is the most important time of year for feeding your garden birds. It’s a time when food shortages are common.
The berries of late summer and early autumn have disappeared. Insects are harder to come by. And frosty or snowy conditions make some food sources inaccessible. What’s more, birds are using up lots of energy just trying to stay warm.
Here are a few tips for feeding the birds in winter:
Provide a Variety of Food
Different birds prefer different foods. Sparrows and finches like to eat seeds, tits love to eat fat and thrushes and robins have a taste for sugary fruit. To help a variety of bird species, provide a variety of food. Our Fatty Box is ideal for the winter months.
Provide Fatty Foods
Fatty foods provide birds with the energy they need to maintain fat reserves and survive cold winter nights. You can leave out your own cooked leftovers such as unsalted bacon, bacon fat and beef fat.
Alternatively, buy fat balls and place them in a fat ball feeder. And, if you buy fat balls in a nylon mesh bag, be sure to remove the bag before hanging them as the mesh can injure and even trap birds.
Birds will come to rely on the food you provide. It’s important that you maintain a feeding routine throughout the winter. You should adjust the quantity of food to the demand but try not to let your bird feeders sit empty.
Provide Water Too
Your birds need to drink as well as eat. In winter, their usual water sources may freeze over. If you have a bird bath, try to keep the water from freezing and defrost when necessary.
Clean your Feeders Regularly
During winter, your bird feeders will be very popular with local bird populations. But when so many birds gather together in the same place, it’s easy for disease to spread. To keep your garden birds healthy, move bird feeders around the garden and clean them regularly.
React to the Weather
When the weather turns particularly cold, you might need to up your efforts if your garden birds are to survive. Try to provide food twice a day – in the morning and early afternoon – and clear any snow away from feeders.
The food you leave for your birds in winter can make all the difference to their survival. Provide high quality bird food on a regular basis and you’ll find more birds in your garden come spring.
- Checkend Apps
Christmas Gift Ideas for Bird Lovers
Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for the bird lover in your life? Then look no further. Here we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best presents for bird watchers and enthusiasts:
Garden Bird Essentials
There are plenty of ways to attract birds to a garden. And many of them make great presents. Stylish bird feeders, beautiful bird baths and well-designed nest boxes come in a variety of designs. You can buy something simple but sturdy. Or opt for something lavish that will make a striking addition to the garden. And don’t forget some winter bird seed or our Robin Bird Seed Box.
Practical Bird Watching Gear
For those who like to do their birdwatching out and about, binoculars are an essential piece of kit. You could treat your loved one to the most technologically advanced pair available. Other useful birdwatching gear includes notebooks and bird identification books – both of which make the perfect stocking fillers.
A Bird Lover’s Subscription
If you prefer to buy a gift that keeps on giving, consider a bird lover’s subscription. You could set your bird lover up with a 12 month bird seed subscription, so they can feed their garden birds all year round. Alternatively, subscribe to their favourite bird watching magazine. Or sign them up as an RSPB member. Membership entitles them to a free gift and free entry to more than 170 nature reserves across the UK.
Perhaps the bird lover in your life would love a framed painting of their favourite bird? See this Robin original painting from Sophie Kane.
If you’re planning on splashing out, you could choose some stylish jewellery with a bird motif. Earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets and cufflinks – whatever you’re looking for, it’s easy to find jewellery that incorporates your friend or relative’s favourite bird.
Gifts for Bird-Loving Children
The list of bird-related gifts is never ending. But here are a few other ideas we really love. For younger bird lovers, there is our Big Bird Gift Box..
So whatever your bird lover is in to, there’s a great bird-related Christmas present out there for them!
- Nikki Boxwild
8 Interesting Facts about Goldfinches
The goldfinch is one of the most common birds in British gardens. And it’s certainly one of the most striking. Here are 8 interesting facts about these beautiful birds:
#1 According to the RSPB Big Birdwatch 2018, goldfinches have had a bumper year. Recorded sightings rose 11% from 2017 and goldfinches were spotted in an incredible two thirds of gardens. There are currently thought to be 1.2 million breeding pairs of goldfinch in the UK.
#2 Male and female goldfinches look pretty much the same. Juveniles, however, are much duller in appearance. They are mainly brown with some yellow markings on the wings. And they don’t yet have the distinctive red face that they’ll gain in adulthood.
#3 The goldfinch’s attractive colouring and appealing song meant many Victorians kept them as caged pets. The RSPB fought against the practice but it was only in 1933 that the sale of wild birds was made illegal and the wild goldfinch population began to recover.
#4 Goldfinches can be found in a number of religious artworks from the Italian Renaissance. Because it eats thistles, the bird was associated with Christ’s crown of thorns and was referred to as a “saviour” bird.
#5 The goldfinch’s scientific name is Carduelis carduelis. The name is derived from the Latin word for thistle – Carduus – the seeds of which are one of the goldfinch’s favourite foods. They are able to avoid thistle spikes and access these tricky to reach seeds because of their long fine beaks.
#6 Goldfinches traditionally made their homes in farmland. Now, however, they’re often seen in gardens. This is partly down to the food we leave out for them. They have a particular love for niger seeds and sunflower hearts. They are also known to eat small insects.
#7 Goldfinches nest later in the season than most other garden birds. Eggs hatch from June all the way through to September. Nests are made from grass and mud and built high up in trees and hedges. They’re lined with plant down (for heat and comfort) and covered with lichen (for camouflage).
#8 A flock of goldfinches is called a charm. They’re social birds. Once breeding season is over, they can be seen roaming for food in flocks around 40 strong. Groups of up to 100 have also been spotted.
If you’re yet to see goldfinches in your garden, leave out a few of their favourite foods. You could also try growing teasels and lavender, both of which are known to attract these pretty songbirds.
8 Interesting Facts about Robins
The robin is a common garden visitor and was crowned Britain’s favourite bird back in 2015.
Boxwild Sells the perfect gift for those who love Robins: Robin Bird Seed Gift Box
Here are 8 interesting facts about these famously red breasted birds:
#1 Robins enjoy a varied diet of seeds, fruits, insects, worms and other invertebrates. They can be quite bold when searching for food, making friends with gardeners and looking out for worms in soil that’s being turned over.
#2 Despite the fact that they’re so widespread, a robin’s life expectancy is just 1.1 years. This is because mortality rates are high in the first year of life. A severe winter can have a terrible effect on the robin population. Bird tables with a regular supply of food can help.
#3 They may seem small and sociable but robins are aggressive when it comes to their territory. Males are quick to drive away intruders, fiercely attacking other males and sometimes even fighting to the death.
#4 We don’t really know how the robin came to be a symbol of Christmas. But we do know that robins can be found in our gardens all year round. They’re one of the only birds in the UK which can be heard singing on Christmas Day.
#5 Robins have been helping scientists with their research into magnetic fields. It’s thought that a specific substance in the birds’ eyes allows them to actually see the Earth’s magnetic field. This helps to explain how migratory robins from Northern Europe find their way south for the winter.
#6 Robins usually build their nest on or near the ground. They make use of sheds, kettles, boots, coat pockets and farm machinery – whatever nook or cranny they can find. They use nest boxes too, but only if they are open fronted and placed in a secluded location.
#7 Both male and female robins sing for most of the year. They take a break when they’re moulting and want to remain inconspicuous. Their song also changes throughout the year. In the spring, their song sounds powerful and lively. During the autumn it takes on a more subdued tone.
#8 Robins are active in the dimmest of light. They’re one of the first bird species to start singing in the morning and one of the last to stop in the evening. They can sometimes even be heard singing in the night, particularly if there are streetlights nearby.
Welcome robins to your garden with a well-stocked bird table or ground feeder and you’ll be treated to beautiful song all year round.
Boxwild Sells the perfect gift for those who love Robins: Robin Bird Seed Gift Box
How to Choose a Bird Feeder
Did you know that different garden birds like to feed in different ways? Having a variety of bird feeders in your garden is a great idea if you want to attract a variety of species.
Here’s a full lowdown on bird feeders and how to choose one:
Tray or Table Feeders
Some bird species prefer to peck their food from the ground. Robins, dunnocks, chaffinches, thrushes and blackbirds like to be on steady ground when they’re tucking into their grub. These species are most likely to make use of raised bird tables or tray feeders placed on the ground.
What features should a bird table have?
- A small bird table can lead to fighting. Birds need to have enough space to feed alongside each other.
- A smooth, straight post makes it more difficult for predators like cats and squirrels to climb up to the bird table. A metal post is perfect.
- Some bird tables have rooves. Whilst these aren’t essential, the height of the roof will determine which birds can fit onto the table. If you want to reserve food for smaller bird species, choose a bird table with a lower roof.
Lots of birds like seeds and nuts. Hanging feeders are most likely to attract birds from the tit family who are able to cling to the mesh. Greenfinches and sparrows will also make use of a hanging feeder if there is a perch for them to use. If the perch is circular you may also see some robins flying up to feed.
What features should a hanging feeder have?
- A standard hanging feeder is great if you’re just planning to use standard bird seed. But niger seeds are tiny and require a dedicated niger seed feeder. And a peanut feeder features a tighter mesh which helps to prevent whole peanuts choking younger birds.
- If squirrels, jackdaws and rooks pose a threat to your garden birds, you can find hanging feeders with a surrounding cage.
A Few More Bird Feeder Essentials
Whichever bird feeders you choose, there are a few essential features they need to have. Firstly, they should allow rainwater to drain away from the food. Secondly, they should be easy to clean.
Bird feeders can help to spread disease amongst our bird populations. So cleaning bird feeders is something we should do on a regular basis.
By choosing a selection of bird feeders and providing a variety of food, you’re sure to attract a number of different bird species to your garden. Just try to place feeders clear of predators and only provide food that is safe for birds to eat.