Your winter guide for wildlife

Blue tit on icy branches
Blue Tit

As things wind down after the warmth of summer and the days get shorter, we need to think about how best to prepare our gardens for winter.

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Often people forget that songbirds and other wildlife can need a little extra help in the colder months when food and water can be harder to find.

We know that birds and other animals can survive without our help, however this is the hardest time of year. Natural food sources are in short supply and with it being so cold, they need extra food to keep their energy levels up to stay warm. This is where you can help; we've put together a few simple ideas to try for a safe and inviting garden this winter.


Keeping feeders topped up in the winter months is key to providing a haven for songbirds. By topping your feeders up at roughly the same time, birds will learn when to visit your garden for food and not waste energy visiting when there’s no food!... See more

Offering food that is high in protein or fat like fat balls, bacon rind (unsmoked and chopped up), cheese and sunflower hearts provide extra energy to help birds stay warm. Seeds that don’t need to be de-husked is also a great idea for feeding, as these require less time spent out in the cold to access the food. 

If we have been blessed with some snowflakes, make sure to clear away patches of snow so that birds can access the soil underneath. Many birds feed on invertebrates in the soil and clearing the snow can be a small task that is very appreciated by our feathered friends.

Don’t feed birds milk, desiccated coconut, white bread, or salty foods as these are not good for their health.

For more ideas on what to feed birds click here.

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Like us, birds look for shelter to keep warm. Making a windbreak can be an effective way of keeping an area of your garden clear from drifting snow and bitter winds, allowing the birds access to feeders during the winter. If you can provide an area of shelter need your feeding station, this is even better as they can expend as little energy as possible to reach it.... See more

An old Christmas tree, or a pile of branches and other foliage can be placed on the ground to provide shelter. Adding a sheet of plywood to serve as a wall will drastically reduce the wind. Behind the contraption, on the sheltered side you can clear the snow from the ground and either scatter seed or use ground feeders.

Evergreens are also a good source of shelter and will offer them some comfort in the cold weather. Some ornamental conifers also offer good cover, as do privets, laurels, and Pyracantha. Holly and ivy provide great cover and can be a saviour for many small birds, as well as being a welcome sight of Christmas time!

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Gardening in the winter months

In the winter months, try and leave plants unpruned if possible until the springtime. Leaving things to get a bit wilder and leaving your fallen leaves in the winter can provide shelter for birds, and any leftover seed heads provide food. Here are a few tips for what is good to grow during this colder time that you’ll be able to enjoy the following year.... See more

  • October is a great time to plant trees, hardy summer bulbs and herbaceous perennials.
  • November is a perfect time to plant shrubs and bushes to establish before it gets really cold. Hawthorn and elder are great choices to support bird populations.
  • December leans its way towards bedding plants. Pansies, heather, evergreen grasses, and violas are great to establish in this time.

For more gardening tips, click here.

Bullfinch eating red berries
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Other wildlife

It’s not just birds that need help in the winter, but all our native wildlife. Try these handy tips.... See more

  • Insect hotels are a great addition to any garden. Maintaining a healthy insect population helps to pollinate flowers, and these are prey for many songbird species too.
  • Make sure to look after other wildlife in your garden by checking bonfires before you light them for sheltering animals.
  • Compost heaps are also a great refuge for animals, so take care when turning them.
  • If you are lucky enough to have a resident hedgehog, leave minced meat or tinned dog food to feed them under a platform, so the food can’t be taken by foxes or cats.
  • If your garden pond freezes over, ensure you make a hole in the ice. Toxic gases can build up in the water of a frozen pond, which may kill any fish or frogs that are hibernating at the bottom.
  • Never break the ice with force or tip boiling water onto the pond, as this can harm or even kill any fish that live in it.
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