Winter feeding: what birds prefer to eat

Winter feeding tits
Winter feeding tits

Many bird species spend the cold season with us. As soon as the temperatures drop, grains are diligently bought and fat food is stirred. But as far as bird feeding in the garden is concerned, one encounters different views: Some experts advocate feeding birds all year round, as in some places natural habitats and feeding opportunities are dwindling. Others, on the other hand, see natural selection at risk. Basically, however, winter feeding is an opportunity to observe great tits, robin, blackbirds and co. up close, to learn about the peculiarities of the various bird species and to enjoy a colorful hustle and bustle in the otherwise rather dull garden season. Put the feeders in place no later than November, or better yet, a little earlier. This gives the birds time to discover what’s on offer and get used to the feeder. But what do birds actually prefer to eat?

A treat that all garden birds actually like to eat is sunflower seeds. It’s best to choose the black ones, they contain more fat and their shell is easier for a bird to crack.

Feeding tits in winter

Tit species such as great tit and blue tit can be quite often seen at feeding birds in winter. They particularly like fat food, chopped peanut or nuts and sunflower seeds, especially if you serve it to them hanging. It’s easy for titmice to cling to feeder columns with narrow landing areas or feeder dumplings.

When buying titmouse dumplings, make sure they are not wrapped in plastic netting. The birds can get their claws caught in them and eventually hurt themselves. If it may be a little more decorative, it offers itself to make the bird food. Then you can determine not only the shape but also the quality. An eye-catcher on the tree are self-made bird feed cups. But also shapely feed dumplings are made quickly without much effort.

Don’t forget that tits also feed on seeds and berries. Gardens that feature native woody plants such as beech or hawthorn hedges, as well as fruit stalks from plants such as sunflowers, provide a rich buffet for the birds. A natural garden also attracts insects such as aphids and beetles, as well as spiders and caterpillars, which the feathered creatures like to eat, especially in spring and summer.

Feeding blackbirds in winter

Blackbirds belong to the so-called soft food eaters. They are less interested in hard grains, but rather in fruits. So they are just as happy about the fallen fruit from the apple tree as they are about raisins and dried berries in bird feed. In addition, oatmeal, bran, crushed nuts and mealworms are a welcome snack.

Anyone who has ever observed the songbirds knows: blackbirds are usually foraging on the ground. They energetically whirl the foliage around to grab insects and worms underneath. Ideally, therefore, you should offer blackbirds food on the ground. Whether in store-bought ground feeders or simply in covered bowls: Choose the place so that the birds can keep an eye on their surroundings, so that they can flee from predators in time.

Throughout the year, blackbirds are fond of insects, earthworms and snails, as well as berries that can be found on shrubs and hedges. Wild roses bearing rose hips, a privet hedge, rowan trees or raspberries are just some of the woody plants that the bird appreciates in gardens.

Feeding sparrows in winter

Sparrows are not very picky when it comes to food. Both the tree sparrows and the house sparrows eat a mix of grains, seeds and crushed nuts. However, they are also happy to eat dried berries and raisins. They also like to eat fat food, which is why they can also be seen pecking at titmouse dumplings, provided they are easily accessible to them. Whether birdhouse or feeding pillar? That does not play a major role for the sparrows. However, they are not quite as agile gymnasts as titmice and prefer a somewhat more comfortable perch. Even from a wine crate, you can build a bird feeder with a little skill.

Especially in spring and summer, the sparrow eats more plant seeds from wild herbs, native grasses and grains such as wheat and hemp. Accordingly, leave the fruit stalks in your garden for the birds. Animal protein through insects is there mainly for the young.

Feeding chaffinches in winter

Similar to sparrows, chaffinches don’t need a special feeder. Like all birds, it is only important for them to be able to eat in a safe place. Provide the chaffinch with a mixture of grains and seeds, chopped peanut and nuts nuts and various seeds for winter feeding in the birdhouse. It often picks up its food from the ground. Its diet also includes beechnuts and insects, which, along with plant seeds, are also part of its summer diet. It is therefore worthwhile to grow wild herbs and grasses in the garden, which on the one hand attract insects and on the other hand form seeds.

Feeding woodpeckers in winter

Usually the great spotted woodpecker feeds on worms and insects such as beetles and their larvae, which it finds in the bark of trees. But also nuts, seeds of conifers and fruits like berries are on its menu, especially when insects are rare in winter.

If your property is located near a forest, chances are good that you will also be able to welcome a great spotted woodpecker to your garden for winter feeding. There you will discover it at the bird house, where it prefers to eat seeds, nuts and oily seeds. It also likes apples and fat food, which is why tit dumplings are not uninteresting for the bird. Feed the woodpecker on tree bark or hang special feeders, which are long pieces of wood with holes drilled in them and filled with fat food.

The green woodpecker, on the other hand, forages more on the ground. While in summer it feeds mainly on ants, in winter it also looks for spiders and flies. In the garden, you can support it, for example, with peanuts and mealworms in fat. Fallen fruit such as apples are also a treat for him.

Feeding robins in winter

Every now and then, robins can be seen at the winter feeding stations in the garden. Like blackbirds, they prefer soft food there, which they prefer to eat near the ground. Give the bird with the orange-feathered breast mealworms and greased raisins, but also fruit, oatmeal and chopped nuts.

During the year, the birds can be observed hopping over the ground looking for food such as insects, small snails and worms. In addition, amateur gardeners can buffet the robins with woody plants such as the peacock and other fruit-bearing shrubs.

Feeding bullfinch in winter

The bullfinch provides color at the bird house with its red plumag, especially the male specimens. With its strong beak, the bullfinch is also a bird that likes to eat grains. Accordingly, it is happy with mixtures of grains, seeds, chopped peanuts and seeds such as hemp. Oatmeal and berries are a welcome change for it. Silos, feeders or birdhouses near shrubs are suitable places for the bullfinch. Usually it also eats buds, berries and seeds. Food that can be offered to it in the garden in the form of shrubs, fruit trees and a versatile flower meadow even outside the cold season.

Feeding wren in winter

The wren is one of the smallest birds in Europe. Now and then it can be seen in gardens during winter feeding. At this time its main food, namely insects, spiders, earwigs, moths, mosquitoes and other creatures, is difficult to catch. Usually it looks for them near the ground. Therefore, appropriately available soft food will also attract the little bird to your garden. It is best to offer it smaller seeds and insect larvae.

The wren is most likely to be found if it can stay in bushes, hedges or shrubs near the feeding place. Those who leave leaves in the garden or have a compost heap also provide food sources during the year: There the wren pecks diligently for spiders, woodlice and Co.

Winter feeding of birds: what to pay special attention?

Do you have enough space in the garden? Then it is best to offer the food in several places. This way, not all birds rush to one feeding place and the different tastes and needs can be better taken into account. Make sure that the food does not get soaked by rain and snow and eventually spoil.

Also important to proper bird feeding is the location of the feeders. They should not be easily accessible to predators such as cats or sparrowhawks. To be able to react quickly in case of potential danger, birds like to keep an eye on their surroundings. Shrubs and trees nearby provide an ideal hiding place. It’s best to hang feeders and titmouse dumplings high enough on a branch. The feeder should have a sturdy, high base that cats can’t easily climb up. A protruding roof not only protects the birdseed from the elements. It also makes hunting more difficult for sparrowhawks and other birds of prey that swoop down on their prey in flight.

Hygiene is particularly important for birdhouses: they should be cleaned regularly and freed of droppings and dirt to prevent pathogens from spreading among the birds. This also applies to feeders placed on the ground. Instead of large rations, it is best to stock these feeders with fresh feed daily. Caution: Never feed the birds in your garden with leftover food from the kitchen, salty food or bread.

If you want to do something good for our feathered friends all year round, you should make your garden as natural as possible. Don’t clean up leaves and fallen fruit, and look past supposed weeds for a change. Draw from the wide selection of trees and shrubs with fruits that birds like to eat: These include, for example, wild roses with their rose hips, rowan, privet, blackthorn and hawthorn, to name just a few. They are important bird feeders, but also protective woody plants with which everyone can contribute to nature conservation in their garden. In addition, plant seed plants for songbirds and leave the seed heads of sunflower, marigold and wild cardoon for goldfinch, bullfinch and co.

In addition to the food on offer, the animals are also happy to accept nesting boxes, as suitable nesting sites are becoming increasingly scarce in nature.

You can also support the little garden visitors in winter with a bird bath and watering trough. With a little skill, a trivet and a plastic bottle, a bird bath is easy to build yourself.

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