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Attracting winter migrants to your garden in the winter

The winter months bring different dimensions to feeding the birds in our gardens, but arguably the most interesting and rewarding is successfully attracting winter migrants that have travelled from northern Europe, Scandinavia and even Siberia.

So what species are we talking about here? Well we can broadly split them into two groups: Firstly, there are the species which we already have in our gardens such as the Chaffinch, Blackbird, Starling and Robin, all of which we get an influx of because, being an island, the UK is less cold than mainland Europe.  And it’s because of this influx that often quite large numbers of Chaffinch will suddenly arrive in gardens having flocked with resident birds, plus the odd solitary Blackbird you may have seen on your lawn is joined by five or six others – though generally all keeping a safe distance from each other and squabbling when their personal space is invaded.

And now onto the handful of rather special species which don’t breed in the UK (or don’t in any numbers – there has been the odd exception), with the main ones being Brambling, Fieldfare, Redwing and, best of all, the Waxwing. Bramblings are a finch and closely related to the Chaffinch, which they bare more than a passing resemblance to. Fieldfares and Redwings are both thrushes, though, unlike Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, are highly gregarious in the winter months and will often form huge flocks of both species. And the Waxwing sits in a family of its own, though is related to the Starling which it resembles in flight.

So how can you attract these winter visitors to your garden? For all the species which join those already here in the UK such as Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Siskin and Blackbird, then just carry on with your feeding regime as you normally would, and with foods such as suet pellets, seed mixes, peanuts, sunflower hearts and niger seed. And if you’re fairly new to feeding birds, then you’ll find a host of information in our information and advice pages. For Bramblings, as these anyway flock with Chaffinches, they can be quite easy to attract and will eat sunflower hearts, black sunflower seed and seed mixes. They’re typically happier feeding on the ground, but will also go onto hanging tube feeders. Fieldfares and Redwings come straight to gardens to look for food but only when the ground is frozen or covered in snow. The simple way to attract them is apples cut in half and placed on the lawn, which they can make very short work of indeed! Waxwings are far more unpredictable and indeed their numbers into the UK hugely fluctuate on an annual basis, but if they are present in your area then again apples are the best way to attract them.