Bird feeder hanging on tree

Feeding the birds through winter

By Paul Hervey-Brookes, February 22

Feeding the birds through winter

Most of us feed birds in our gardens. In the winter when other food is scarce and throughout the rest of the year as they raise their young and teach them to use bird feeders.

Sparrows feeding on bird tableIn the main bird tables and hanging bird feeders are the normal way to see birds feeding in the garden but there are other ways to ensure all get fed in different areas of the garden.

Suet feeders are usually square wire cages that enable birds to hold onto when feeding. Place more than one in the garden to avoid conflict between larger and small birds. Alternatively take small pieces of lard or dripping and stick onto clean nails along your fence top. Rub suet onto the bark of trees to attract woodpeckers to the garden. Always check to ensure the suet/fat has not gone rancid as this can make birds sick.

Bird feeders should be easy to fill and have no sharp edges. A platform feeder will encourage fruit eating birds who enjoy grapes, apples and pomegranates. Fruit will always need to be fresh as dried up fruit will attract vermin and feeders need to be at least twelve inches above the ground. Suspended from branches they will attract sparrows and cardinals.

Tube feeders are ideal for small birds as they have short perches and large feeding holes. Bigger birds find it difficult to use short perches and the larger feeding holes allow the birds to eat sunflower and bigger seeds. Hang these from trees or your porch.

Bird feeding on pine coneGet the family involved by making your own feeders - pinecones are ideal. Collect pinecones that have fallen from trees near to you or go for a nature walk to collect them. If they are closed up keep them indoors for a few days until they open or bake them in an oven at 300 degrees. To cover the cones you will need peanut butter and birdseed.

Attach a pipe cleaner to the tip of each cone and then start spreading the peanut butter all over the cone and fill up all the cracks and crevices as you go. Spread the birdseed on a plate and roll the cone back and forth until fully covered. Press the seeds into all tiny crevices and when complete take outside and hang up. Make sure it is out of reach of cats and then let your family watch as the birds enjoy!


Paul has his own highly successful landscape design business, and has also designed a range of gardening gifts for Marks and Spencers.

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