Tips for helping garden wildlife this winter

Winter robin

Eight ways to create a welcoming haven for feathered guests

Photograph: A winter robin by specky4eyes (Flickr)

In winter, garden wildlife needs our help more than ever. Ground frost, snow and freezing temperatures can threaten the survival of birds, bugs and other wildlife.

No matter how big or small your outside space, everyone can help to make a difference to wildlife in winter. The RSPB is calling on more people to help keep wildlife alive by offering tips and activities that almost anyone can do.

Feed the birds: If might sound obvious to feed the birds in winter but many people forget to keep bird feeders and tables stocked up in the chillier season because they spend less time outdoors and looking out of the window at their garden. However, birds need a reliable source of food at this time of year. If you don’t already have one, why not treat your garden birds to a feeding table or a simple bird feeder? Make sure that the feeder is raised above the ground so that birds don’t become the prey of cats and other animals.

Feed them right! Birds like different foodstuffs and not just shop-bought bird seed and bird cake, although they will thank you for these treats. Other foods to feed the birds:

  • Black sunflower seeds and peanuts
  • Fresh mealworms are loved by robins and blue tits, and many birds relish waxworms
  • Pure lard and beef suet are good choices, although you should avoid fat from cooking and polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils
  • Cooked rice, brown or white (without salt added) is beneficial to birds during severe winter weather
  • Uncooked porridge oats are readily eaten by a number of bird species, but never serve up cooked oats

Water features: It doesn’t need to be an elaborate or ornate pond, although you can build one of these if you fancy. Even a small water feature, such as a water bowl, on the ground or raised, can offer the perfect place for wildlife to drink and bathe in. Make sure it is kept ice free.

Build a bat home: Bats do not have an easy time in nature. They can struggle to find food and safe places in which to sleep and nest. A bat box in the garden is the ideal place for these creatures to feel safe and raise a family. In winter, bats will hibernate but they need somewhere to roost that is quiet, cool and undisturbed.

Plant a tree or shrub: Trees, shrubs and climbers will take a few years before they mature, but they will offer a home for wildlife to shelter. Even if you only have a patio or balcony you can plant shrubs and dwarf trees in pots. A few wildlife favourites are crab apple, rowan, hawthorn, privet, dog rose, ivy and honeysuckle.

Pile up dead wood: Bugs and small mammals, such as hedgehogs, love piles of dead and rotting wood. This is one of the easiest wildlife attractors to build. Simply pile up old wood and then add branches that you prune off trees and shrubs.

Be a green gardener: Avoid using pesticides – they can harm plants and animals.

Find out more: Request a free guide from the RSPB for “Give Nature a Home” at RSPB

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