Lots of people feed the birds throughout Winter, it has long been accepted that it is a good time to supplement their diets because of the lack of foods in nature.
Now that we understand more about birds though, we know it is important to feed them all year around. Supplementing their diet throughout the year can help to increase numbers and make a difference to their lives. Weather conditions mean that berries and natural foods are not always as abundant.
Feeding garden birds to supplement their natural food supply can increase their life expectancy, help the colour of their feathers to grow brighter and they sing and learn different songs quicker and better. All of these things support birds throughout their lives; helping them to have the best territories, find the best partners and live a better life.
In spring, feeding birds is a great way to support breeding pairs. The additional food can help the parents to keep up with the hard work during the season as well as helping them to grow their their young chicks successfully.
Summer is also an important time, although there is more food around there are often droughts and a lack of rain water. The ground can be more solid and water is not abundant. Birds can find it hard to find additional food such as insects, worms and fat which they naturally need.
You might find that at the end of late summer, early autumn migrant birds are arriving at the feeders. After their long journeys, extra food supplies can be brilliant. Along with these extra visitors, your little birds will be will be preparing for cooler months by building up their fat supplies.
In the later summer months birds start to shed their feathers, making way for winter feathers will help them to say warmer in the winter months. Moulting can take up a lot of a little bird’s energy. Providing energy-rich foods can be a big help during this time.
As well as the benefits for the birds, it can also benefit us too. By feeding birds in your garden, they are more likely to visit. It will bring more varieties and they will eventually see it as part of their feeding routine, visiting your garden and feeders.
Depending on the food that you put out and where you are situated you could find lots of different visitors outside from Sparrows, tits, nuthatches, finches, blackbirds and of course Britain's favourite bird the Robin.
We know from previous results from the Big Garden Birdwatch that garden bird numbers are depleting across the UK and have dropped by 70% since 1960. According to The Birdtrends report, published in December 2014, surveys 120 species of birds in the UK and the results are extremely worrying. 28 species of birds appear to have suffered a decline of over 50% in the last 45 years.
Encouraging birds to your garden and supplementing their diets can be extremely important for them and will help to increase birds across the UK.
It isn’t just about the food that you provide though, it is also a good idea to also keep wild lawns growing, adding wild flowers to your garden and creating insect hotels. Lots of birds are declining due to the lack of nesting sites so putting up nesting boxes can be a great support.
What to feed them?
Spring — food that is suitable for fledglings and parents — try adding fats, soft foods, insects and no peanuts (these can cause baby birds to choke).
Summer — birds need insects and fats. They can be unable to find food under hard ground from drought so supplementing their diets in this way is useful. Spring/Summer seed mixes are also lighter and support them with moulting.
Once the fledges have all left the nests you can add peanuts to a peanut feeder (don’t put them out whole on trays).
Autumn — Keep the fats topped up and make sure there are plenty of insects. You may get more migrant birds at this time of the year so adding more than usual to supplement this increase in birds is important too.
Leaving fruit on trees instead of picking them all can be a great way to support them — blackbirds and robins love apples!
Winter — These can be the hardest months for birds, very little natural food is around and they can struggle to find good food and water supply. Berries, nuts and high-energy foods are a great way to supplement their diets.
Make sure as well that you are keeping bird baths from being frozen — they need to be able to access water and it can be particularly hard at this time of year.