Feeding Birds in Winter

How you can help the little visitors in the cold season


In order to stop the decline in species in the long term, it is essential to preserve natural food sources. Near-natural gardens with berry bushes, fallen fruit, shrubs and piles of leaves as shelter for small animals guarantee a full stomach for birds and other wild animals, not just in hard times. Near-natural gardens are therefore the best way to help wildlife.

In frosty temperatures and when there is snow cover, supplementary feeding with bird food can be helpful. The animals need sufficient amounts of food to balance out the energy lost by their small bodies due to the cold. Winter feeding contributes to the survival of individuals, provided that bird friends use the right food and make sure that the feeding place is kept clean.

Is it sensible to feed birds in winter?

In principle, native birds are well adapted to winter their respective regions and do not need any help from humans to survive the winter. Rare and endangered bird species do not benefit from feeding, as they rarely come to the feeders.

A species-appropriate food supply in your own garden attracts the most common birds and offers a good opportunity to see these birds up close. The birds are not dependent on the food supply, but with proper feeding this does not harm the birds either.

However, feeding birds in water and migratory bird reserves is prohibited!

Feeding birds properly

Food should be varied and adjusted according to the needs of the birds. Quality feed mixes are available for purchase. Seed eaters like sparrows and tits prefer sunflower, hemp and some other seeds. Worm and insect eaters like blackbirds, thrushes and robins like dried berries, oatmeal, ground nuts and chopped apple. Soft food such as fruit should not be left out in larger quantities as it can freeze. In general: leftovers from human meals, as well as salted food items (such as salted peanuts) are not suited for feeding to our feathered friends. 

In order to attract many different bird species, it is best to set up various feeding spots. Feeding tubes and feeding funnels are recommended because the new bird feed slips down as the food is eaten and remains clean. Grains, seeds and nuts can be offered in these. High-fat food and fruit can be hung directly on branches. Traditional feeders should be avoided, as the birds stand directly in their food and contaminate it with their droppings, and care must generally be taken to keep the feeding area clean. Infections spread fast in soiled feeding spots. For this reason, food remains and excrement should be cleared away daily and the feeding tray should be protected against the weather. In order to protect the birds from natural enemies, they should have an unblocked view from the feeding spot of about three metres in radius. Outside this area there should be dense, preferably thorny bushes where songbirds can take refuge from predators.

Husky dog in the snow

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