Helping Birds Survive the Winter

It is a fact, which not everyone is aware of, that a bird can use up roughly ten per cent of its body weight trying to keep warm on a cold night during winter.

Many of us might never even have considered this a possibility as we sit in our homes in front of the fire warm and well fed. But the truth is that during the winter months the mortality rate of a lot of the United Kingdom’s bird population reaches dangerous levels when the temperature drops.

So what can we do to help the many species of bird who don’t migrate for the winter?


Whether you have a huge garden or a small back yard you can help to provide the birds with food and water during the winter months. For the owner of a large garden fat balls or bags of nuts and seeds attached to branches are an ideal source of food and easy to get to. In addition some of your shrubs may well produce berries or seeds that they can feed off too.

If you don’t have a large garden a bird feeder hanging from a drain pipe or attached to the wall of your back yard can still provide as much food as a bird can eat to replace valuable lost body weight. You will notice that birds tend to be active first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening during the winter – this is because they come out early to replenish lost stocks from the previous night and stock up for the night ahead in the evening.

Seeds, Fats and Kitchen Left Overs

Birds are sometimes referred to as ‘flying dustbins’ because they will eat most things. A mixture of seeds and nuts are ideal for a bird feeder but if you have a bird table then you can put out quite a lot of what might be left behind in the kitchen. This includes :

  • Potatoes
  • Cheeses
  • Fats (from meats etc)
  • Suet’s and pastries

Instead of wasting these leftovers by simply throwing them into the bin put them out for the birds who struggle to find such things in the harsh weather.


Just like all other animals birds need water too so where possible put a small bowl out with some water in it for them. Remember to check on the bowl twice a day if you can to insure the water hasn’t frozen. As temperatures drop in winter so do natural sources of water such as rivers or lakes, and they can freeze over making it difficult if not impossible for the birds to drink. So anything you can do to help is a bonus.

You could also consider a small bird bath which allows the birds to wash their wings; an important requirement in winter as their wings can become clogged with mud etc making it difficult for them to fly thus making them an automatic target for their natural predators. Again it is worth checking on the bird bath twice a day if you can to make sure the water hasn’t frozen.

Further Information

For more information on how you can do your bit through the winter months to help the birds survive check for details of your local RSPB (Royal Society Protection of birds) who can supply you with fact sheets and helpful advice.

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