Why is feeding birds in winter important?

Although feeding birds in the winter has long been accepted as the most beneficial time to supplement their diets, feeding all year round also seems to have added benefits too. It’s obvious that for anyone who likes to watch the birds that visit their garden, feeding them comes natural, but what it also does, it would seem, is acclimatise the birds to your patch.

Case in point was our garden. The area for the birds is rather small and the garden is surrounded by high hedges and neighbouring gardens. Sadly these gardens are also the territory of the local cat population, but maybe the less said about that the better! When we moved in, a little over a year ago, the bird visitors were - let's be honest - unlikely to get anyone excited. A few house sparrows, blue tits, coal tits, great tits a robin or two and a couple of blackbirds.

Winter Feeding Stations

Encouraged by the challenge to increase the numbers and variety of species visiting the garden we set about establishing a feeding station. Sunflower hearts, niger seed, peanuts, live food, scraps and or course water, all are provided and kept topped up.

Weeks and months passed without any major changes, but then gradually we began to see nuthatch, jackdaws, goldfinches, wren, bullfinch and flocks of long-tailed tits visiting regularly. Over the last few days, grey and pied wagtails have ventured close by, so it would seem this long term project of increasing the numbers and diversity of species has paid off.

Maybe it’s down to the approaching winter, and the reduction in food in the surrounding countryside, which I’m sure has played it’s part. But I like to think that the efforts we’ve put in are paying off too. With the weather getting colder and daylight hours shorter the responsibility on us is to keep this supply of food going.

It might be stating the obvious to seasoned birders, but to those who are new to maintaining a feeding station, or are considering improving the one they already have, our story only goes to prove how worthwhile it is to persevere. Given the serious reductions in natural food due to changes in farming practice, pesticides and changes to our climate the birds need all the help they can get. The help we can provide makes a real difference to local bird numbers, but what we must always do is maintain the support we are providing as the birds will come to depend on the food we offer them.

And for those who need even more convincing of the benefits of bird feeding, it’s worth remembering that our connection with wildlife helps us too. It’s long been recognised that time spent interacting with nature helps with our mental health, and in doing so our physical health. A win-win situation.

I’ll put my soapbox away now and go and make sure the feeders are clean and full while checking on what’s been visiting today.

By - Phil Pickin

Image © Phil Pickin www.philpickin.co.uk