Both the RSPB and BTO agree that garden birds can, or should, be fed all year round, and this is largely because natural food sources have progressively dwindled over many decades due to intensive farming, urbanisation and pollution. In fact, bird species that historically relied on farmland showed declines ranging from 40% to 76% between 1972 and 1996, with modern agricultural practices largely to blame. For example, under law farmers are required to keep their grain stores vermin-proof – and therefore also ‘bird-proof’ – and crops are sprayed three to four times a year, which, although not directly killing the birds, does starve them of their food source because the spray destroys weeds and insects.

So feeding the birds in your garden all year round is definitely the right thing to do, but it’s also worth understanding how the requirements of birds vary throughout the year: