Cold Weather and Your Garden Birds

Adventurer ChristmasThe trend towards short days and long cold nights can make life difficult for our garden birds. Small garden birds need to consume 30-40% of their body weight every day just to survive which means they will be spending the limited daylight hours available foraging for food. 

An energetic lifestyle and maintaining a body core temperature that is typically 2 degrees higher than the norm for a human, but in a frame that has a much greater surface area relative to its volume, means that birds needs lots of energy, particularly during very cold conditions when they may have to shiver throughout the night to stay warm.  If they have managed to lay down enough fuel in the form of fat, most species can withstand surprisingly low temperatures for a few nights, but making sure that they can get this fuel is, quite literally, vital. 

As birds from colder climes such as Scandinavia, Russia or Iceland move in, the pressure on natural food supplies increases, often leading to local shortages just as the time available for foraging reaches the annual low. For the next few weeks high energy seed mixes and fat products will be the preferred option. Some people add feeders to quieter parts of the garden over the autumn and winter to give the more timid species a chance, which of course also increases the possibility of seeing less familiar visitors to the garden. 

Look out for birds such as a Brambling in amongst the Chaffinches, a green finch on the feeders that isn’t a Greenfinch (Siskins are smaller and have yellow across the wing rather than along it) or a wintering Blackcap that’s chosen to fly north west from Germany or Austria to enjoy our milder winters and well-stocked feeding stations.

The birds are looking for foods that are rich in energy and easy to process, maximising the number of calories consumed every minute, so a reliable supply of foods such as our Hi-Energy No Mess or Hi-Energy Supreme provided from now on can add a garden to the birds’ daily foraging schedule, resulting in impressive numbers of birds arriving during cold snaps, particularly if the cold also brings a blanket of snow to hide natural food supplies. 

Fat products such as our energy packed Peanut Cakes, Peanut Butter for Birds and Twist & Feed are particularly important during cold weather as they provide the birds with an essential source of concentrated energy that the body can store. Peanut cakes have an integral hanger but can also be chopped and sprinkled along hedge bottoms or rubbed into the bark of trees to help smaller species such as Wrens, Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests. If you are using fat balls encased in mesh please remove it before putting them out for the birds as the risk of getting a toe or tongue caught is greater than many of us imagine, and any casualties that result are unnecessary and easily avoided.

Another important tip is to leave feeding areas undisturbed during the first and last hours of the day when the birds will be desperately preparing for the cold night to come or recovering from the cold night just passed.  Finally, don’t forget to make sure that there's always clean, fresh water available for drinking and bathing, and, with the birds being concentrated at the feeders, maintain good hygiene.

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