If there is one thing people from the UK love, it is bird watching.
And nothing is more enjoyable than sitting cosy in our sunrooms while watching the little birds flit across the garden.
But, while we are hiding away from winter in our warm homes, our feathered friends are exposed to the elements out in our gardens. As our trees become bare, our garden wildlife becomes scarce as they go into hiding.
Luckily, you can make a winter haven in your gardens for birds and other creatures by planting the right plants, creating some shelter, providing bird food, and making use of water features.
Garden birds need all the help they can get in winter, so let’s see how you can create a wildlife haven in your winter garden.
How To Attract Garden Birds
Attracting new birds to your garden in winter is about more than just buying bird food and tossing it on a bird table with a nearby bird bath.
You can landscape your entire garden to be more attractive to local birds, for example by planting late flowering plants, winter berries or evergreen shrubs, providing high-energy food, creating roosting spots, and blocking the wind out of your backyard.
If you want many birds to enjoy your garden, you have to start by creating the perfect year-round garden first.
The Winter Garden
Here are some trees you should consider planting in your garden to create a wildlife haven for birds and other critters.
- Holly hedging – this is an evergreen hedge which grows winter berries, provides shelter, and blocks the wind.
- Pyracantha Victory – this robust shrub provides a nesting habitat in winter.
- Pyracantha Golden Charmer – This plant is loved by winter birds, and can also be used to block wind and provide screening.
- Hawthorn – This indigenous hedge provides a great barrier to strong winds. Autumn berries attract robins and other birds who will stay for the winter months.
- Crataegus Pauls Scarlet – A tiny shrub with red berries that provides food and shelter.
- Virginia Creeper – This vine provides nesting birds with materials, and is also home to caterpillars and other grubs.
- Lonicera Winter Beauty – This Honeysuckle flowers in winter, but also provides food and shelter for birds throughout the year.
- Lonicera Honeyberry – Honeyberry fruit may not be enjoyed by people, but birds and other critters absolutely love these berries.
How To Attract Birds
Planting vegetation that will attract cold, hungry birds is just the first step to attracting birds to your winter garden.
Here are some other steps you can take to make sure your garden is flush with birds, even in the cold weather:
- Create nesting and roosting areas.
- Provide water. It can be in several bird baths across the garden, a pond, or a water feature.
- Use plants that will attract a variety of insects.
- Avoid chemicals like herbicides and pesticides.
How To Create A Wildlife Haven In Your Garden In Winter
Now that you know what to plant, how can you create the ultimate winter wildlife paradise?
Create a place to forage
When trees and shrubs lose their leaves during autumn, don’t throw away the leaves! Same with any clippings if you are trimming hedges. Rather rake all the twigs and leaves to cover your flowerbeds, or stack them in a corner of the garden.
These mounds of decomposing leaf litter will attract insects, which will create a nice foraging area for different bird species.
Soon you will see small birds start scuffling around the heaped vegetation.
Avoid scratching in your flower beds over winter. Lots of insects overwinter in the ground, and these insects will provide food for birds in the warmer months.
Leave the garden naturally unkempt
You may be tempted to trim your vegetation and cut your grasses, but an unkept garden is a happy garden in winter.
The seedheads of grasses will provide a feast for birds, especially when it starts snowing.
Overgrown plants also provide a warm home for birds and insects. Ladybirds nestle in hollow stems – and trust us – you want ladybirds in your garden! They keep other pests away.
Once Spring arrives, trim the grasses and stems, but stack them in a corner for a while to allow the insects to escape. This will ensure a healthy little ecosystem, which will ensure birds keep coming back to your yard.
Block the wind with evergreen hedges
Birds need shelter from the cold winter winds.
Combining evergreen hedges with composite fencing can be an excellent way to keep the wind out of your garden and make sure your feathered friends remain warm.
Create spaces to roost
Birds love a warm space to hunker down and escape the cold nights.
Hanging flower boxes can act as great roosting boxes, or you can use ledges against a fence to create corners where birds can stay warm.
Provide natural shelter
Thick hedges overgrown with vines can provide the perfect natural shelter for birds. Hedges and shrubs that provide berries are an added bonus for the garden birds.
Use nest boxes – and clean them!
With spring around the corner, cleaning your nesting box in winter is a great idea.
However, some cold birds may be using a nesting box for roosting, especially the house sparrows and wrens.
If you plan on cleaning your nesting boxes in winter, make sure to provide alternative roosting cavities for the birds.
Don’t want to buy an expensive nest box? Why not try your hand at building DIY nest boxes using offcuts from Ecoscape’s composite cladding products?
Use sheltered bird feeders
Hanging bird feeders – whether purchased or simply a table tennis ball dipped in seed – or a bird table is a great place to start if you want to provide your garden birds with food during winter.
These feeding stations are often exposed to the elements, so consider adding a plexiglass cover to your feeders, or place your bird tables under evergreen native trees to keep it sheltered from the worst UK weather.
Plant nut trees
Nut trees are great because not only do they provide birds with food, but they also provide nesting and roosting spaces for large birds.
Walnut, chestnut, oak and buckeye trees are all great nut trees for birds.
Top Tips For Feeding Birds In Winter
Clean your feeders
Feeders can accumulate a lot of bacteria if the seeds and food waste are allowed to rot.
Make sure to clean your feeders as often as possible using some mild soap, and make sure to rinse the soap off thoroughly.
Provide birds with water
Birds require fresh water even when it is cold out.
Don’t cover your pond in the winter, and make sure your bird baths don’t frost over. You can even use a bird bath heater to ensure drinkable water even on the coldest nights or use hot water to melt any ice covering your water features.
If you don’t have a bird bath, you can keep bowls of water on the ground throughout the garden.
Give birds lots of calories for energy
Birds require lots of energy to keep warm, especially when it starts to snow.
You can help birds by providing them with high-energy food sources. Something simple, like black oil sunflower seeds, provide plenty of calories.
You can also make your own suet cakes covered in seeds. Simply melt some suet and mix in bird seeds and other food scraps. Leave it to set and then place it out in the garden. You can customise these suet cakes for different birds – great tits enjoy insects, finches enjoy berries, and strings will indulge in peanuts.
How can I help birds to stay warm in the winter months?
Provide birds with high-energy, high-calorie foods like nuts, oily seeds and suit. Make sure you have plenty of roosting spots in your garden where birds can find shelter. Also, provide water throughout winter. A heated bird bath is ideal.
When is it too cold outside for birds?
In the UK, birds are able to tolerate cold temperatures. As not all our birds migrate during winter, we have some species that are able to survive the British winters. When temperatures begin to drop below 4 degrees Celsius, birds will start to struggle to stay warm and will fluff out their feathers and find cavities to roost in for heat.
Where do birds sleep when it is freezing?
Birds sleep in microhabitats when it is freezing outside. These habitats can be in a hedge, against a tree trunk, on the ground where it is warmer, or in man-made shelters.
Winter may seem incredibly dreary, but it does not have to be!
By attracting birds to your garden in Autumn and providing them with food and shelter made out of materials such as our Ecoscape composite boards, you will have a garden filled with small birds during the winter months.
Gardens are the main green areas throughout the UK, and it is up to us to ensure that our birds and other wildlife have a safe, warm space to survive in the winter months.