Aston Lodge Residents Association

Feeding Birds in Winter

Goldfinch Feeding on Sunflower Hearts
Goldfinch Feeding on Sunflower Hearts

Do you feed birds in your garden?

If so, you are not alone, for 75% of householders do. The bird food industry is worth over £200 million per year!

Feeding birds brings a lot of pleasure but it also plays a vital role in birds' survival over winter. A bird like a Robin can lose, on a really cold night, over half its body weight so food and water are vital to keep its fat reserves up. It is important therefore to avoid disturbing them when they are feeding.

There is a lot of information online about foods and feeding etc. (see What do Birds Eat?), so there is no need to repeat that here, but it is worth following these guidelines:

Planting for Birds

You can also benefit birds in winter by planting berry-bearing crops and fruit trees. Below are some of the commonest, all of which you can find by walking around our estate.

Hawthorn

Our native Hawthorn tends to be too big for gardens, but it is a common hedgerow plant and it can be found behind Leacroft, on the Grassy Patch and up Blackies Lane, among other places. Again, it is good for thrushes in particular.

Hawthorn Berries
Hawthorn Berries

Rowan or Mountain Ash

These are a magnet for winter thrushes, like Fieldfares and Redwings, as well as for our native Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes. There are many varieties, but 'Joseph Rock' in particular is good.

Rowan or Mountain Ash Berries
Rowan or Mountain Ash Berries

Cotoneaster

A common garden species, most often found as the wall-hugging variety (pictured), but also as a sizeable shrub. Not only are the berries good for birds but the flowers are good for bees in the summer.

Cotoneaster Berries
Cotoneaster Berries

Berberis

This is a common hedging plant with dark green leaves, ample spines and bright orange flowers. In winter the leaves fall off and the small red berries are left.

Berberis Berries
Berberis Berries

Pyracantha

A common hedging plant around the estate, with fearsome spines but ample berries, usually red or orange, in the autumn and winter. Much sort after by thrushes.

Pyracantha Berries
Pyracantha Berries

Holly

The berries provide food for thrushes, Woodpigeons and Blackcaps, while the leaves are the foodplant of the caterpillars of the Holly Blue butterfly.

Holly Berries
Holly Berries

Ivy

Ivy is a really valuable plant for wildlife. The flowers provide one of the few nectar sources for insects in late autumn/early winter, while the berries are food for birds like thrushes and Woodpigeons. In addition, the leaves and tangled branches provide valuable roosting places for overwintering butterflies, like Small Tortoiseshell and Comma.

Ivy Berries
Ivy Berries

Mahonia

This plant is almost unique in flowering throughout the winter. The flowers are much sought after by Blue Tits and Great Tits, who bite off the flowers to get at the nectar at their base. In summer, it has lots of blue berries, which attract birds like Blackcaps.

Blue Tit on Mahonia Flowers
Blue Tit on Mahonia Flowers

Crab Apples

There are a number of ornamental Crab Apples that are suitable for small gardens. They flower just after the cherries, but have attractive fruits in autumn and winter. Thrushes love them, but they do need to be softened up by frost first.

Thrush on Crab Apples
Thrush on Crab Apples

Roses

Many roses retain their hips well into winter and they are attractive to thrushes and Greenfinches.

Rose Hips
Rose Hips

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Copyright © - November 2021. Unless otherwise stated, images and text: David Emley. All rights reserved.