Feeding garden birds is more important than ever
Increasing numbers of building developments, monocultures in our gardens, the use of insecticides and climate change are making it ever more difficult for wild birds to find enough food. By providing additional food designed specially for garden birds, you can help restore the balance and will be rewarded with a range of colourful visitors to your garden.
Autumn & winter
The period between late September and early April is particularly barren and dangerous for garden birds – even in mild winters when the ground is not covered in snow. During these winter months, the days are much shorter, which gives birds less time to meet their daily energy requirements. To make matters worse, it is almost impossible to find insects, spiders or grubs at this time of year and many gardens nowadays are filled with exotic ornamental plants that do not bear berries or fruit. As a result, the natural food sources of wild birds are quickly exhausted.
The increase in average temperatures and the microclimates found within cities also have an influence on birds' behaviour. Many species no longer migrate as far south for the winter, and some even remain in their summer territories all year round. An increasing number of bird species from the far north of Europe have also started spending the winter with us. This has caused the total population of our native garden birds to decrease and those that do survive face greater competition for food during the winter months. Human assistance is becoming more vital than ever.
Additional feeding helps protect birds
Scientific studies have shown that year-round feeding helps to preserve many species of birds and makes an active contribution to protecting birds in the wild. This type of feeding only substitutes what birds are unable to find in the wild. Even in the harshest of conditions, observations have shows that birds fulfil only part of their dietary requirements at bird feeders. They continue to seek out the rest from other, natural sources.
Teaching children to protect nature
Feeding garden birds provides you with a unique opportunity to watch them up close. And don't forget to get your children involved! For instance, you can point out how different birds eat at different speeds. Species like tits and nuthatches will quickly grab a piece of food, fly to a nearby branch and nibble on it in peace. Others, like bullfinches, are less shy are will happily eat on the bird table itself. By carefully placing out food and quietly observing the different species, your children will soon come to appreciate the natural world and assume a responsible attitude.
The right way to feed
- You should only ever provide high-quality food that has been designed specifically for garden birds. Kitchen leftovers, for example, can often prove dangerous for birds.
- Put out food in the morning and before dusk. Birds need plenty of energy to make it through the long winter nights.
- Choose a spot near some trees so that the birds can fly up into the branches if threatened. You should, however, keep an eye out for any bushes nearby as these can provide cover for cats.
- The feeding areas should be sheltered from wind, rain and snow to prevent the food from spoiling.
- Use shrubs to shelter feeding areas on a balcony.
- Clean bird tables and bird boxes regularly
- Keep providing winter food until April. Although temperatures may become mild earlier, there will not be a sufficient supply of insects, seeds or fruit.
Bullfinch, Common Bullfinch
The heads of the male and female are black, but their bodies have different colours; the male having a blue-grey mantle, bright red underparts and cheeks, and a white rump, while the female is better camouflaged, being mostly grey-brown with lighter underparts in a pinkish grey colour. Length: 20 cm, weight: 26 g.
The Bullfinch is found across Europe and temperate Asia, preferring wooded areas with dense vegetation that offers good cover and places to hide.
The Bullfinch is a very timid bird that is unfortunately only rarely seen. The best chance of seeing one is in winter, when it might pay a visit to your bird table. Unlike other songbirds, both the male and the female of this species sing.
The Bullfinch mostly eats berries, seeds and the buds of wild herbs and trees. It rarely eats insects. When visiting bird tables, they will pick off the tasty raisins first.
The origin of the name Bullfinch is uncertain, but some have suggested that it was given on account of the thickness of the bird's neck.
The Great Tit has very striking colouring, with its lemon yellow breast and a back that is green tinged with olive. Its head is black with white markings on its cheeks. A black stripe runs down the middle from bib to vent. Length: approx. 14 cm, weight: approx. 20 g.
The Great Tit is a widespread and common species throughout Europe. Its natural habitat is forests and woodland although this adaptable bird also lives happily in gardens and parks.
Great Tits are monogamous breeders, remaining together for the season and forming new pairs each year. They are a common sight in our gardens because they are happy to move into ready-made nest boxes.
Great Tits are omnivorous. They prefer small creatures like insects and spiders, but also eat berries, seeds and buds. In summer, their diet is mostly animal based, whereas in winter it is more plant based.
It is called the Great Tit because of its size; in other words, because it is larger than other birds in the tit family.
Its most distinctive feature is the orange-red colour of its breast and face, which led to its popular name, the Robin redbreast. Its other feathers are grey brown. Length: 13 to 14 cm, weight: 15 to 18 g.
The Robin occurs across Europe, Asia Minor and north Africa. Its natural habitat consists of woodland, but today Robins are also a common sight in gardens, cemeteries and parkland, for instance.
Robins are very territorial. Only during the breeding season will the male and female share a territory. This behaviour is particularly apparent at bird tables, where the robins will attempt to drive all the other birds away.
Its diet consists primarily of insects, spiders and other small bugs. It will however also eat berries and soft seeds.
When watching them at your bird table, you will note that they are much less timid than other birds, and will often allow you to come close enough to get a better look or take a photograph.