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What to Feed Birds in Winter and How To Do It

What to Feed Birds in Winter and How To Do It

What to Feed Birds in Winter


The sight of a robin perched in the snow is a quintessential and heartwarming image associated with winter. However, for our avian companions, this season poses significant challenges. The colder months make it difficult for birds to procure the necessary food and nutrients essential for survival. With daylight hours shortened, insects elusive, soil hardened, and natural food sources buried under snow and ice, winter becomes a harsh time for our feathered friends. As devoted bird lovers in the UK, it's disconcerting to contemplate a decline in bird numbers during this challenging season. In this guide, we'll explore what to feed birds in the winter and provide essential tips for maintaining a thriving avian community in your garden.Ensuring a steady supply of seasonal bird food for your garden birds is a simple yet impactful addition to your daily routine. This practice can be a lifesaver for birds, as food serves as the fuel necessary to keep them warm during the chilly months. To maximize their chances of survival, it's advisable to feed birds consistently throughout the year, as food shortages can occur at any time. In severe winter weather, consider feeding your feathered friends twice a day – in the morning and afternoon.

Unlike humans, who need to watch their intake of fatty foods, winter bird food should be as calorific as possible, emphasising fats, nuts, and seeds. Here are some delectable treats that your garden birds will appreciate and that will keep them well-nourished:

  1. Peanuts:

    • Provide birds with peanuts rich in protein and fat, ideally placed in peanut feeders designed for birds (not the salted peanuts intended for human consumption).
  2. Niger Seeds:

    • These tiny seeds are packed with much-needed fat and oil. Consider placing them in specialized niger bird feeders.
  3. Sunflower Seeds:

    • Loaded with unsaturated fats and protein, sunflower seeds are a favourite among birds. Opt for black sunflower seeds for a higher oil content, and sunflower hearts to save birds from expending energy on shell removal.
  4. Fruits:

    • Sweet and juicy fruits such as apples, grapes, and pears provide a valuable energy source for birds.
  5. Fat Balls:

    • Birds relish fat balls, like our premium fat balls, which supply essential fats and protein.

What Not to Feed Birds in Winter

Understanding what food to avoid is equally crucial, as some items intended as acts of kindness can be harmful to birds. Refrain from feeding birds the following:

  • No Bread:

    • Bread lacks nutritional value for birds and can fill their stomachs without providing essential nutrients from nuts and seeds.
  • No Milk:

    • Milk can cause sickness and dehydration in birds, especially during winter when water is scarce.
  • No Old Bird Seed:

    • Ensure that the bird seed is fresh, not spoiled, sprouting, or clumped together.
  • No Salted or Dry Roasted Peanuts:

    • Peanuts for human consumption contain high levels of salt, leading to potential renal failure. Moldy peanuts can also be lethal.
  • No Chocolate:

    • Chocolate is toxic to birds and should be avoided.
  • No Decaying Food:

    • Decaying food carries harmful bacteria and mould that can be detrimental to birds.
  • No Leftovers:

    • Leftover food might contain ingredients harmful to birds, such as salt, spices, or garlic.

Tips for Feeding Birds in Winter

  1. Choose Good-Quality Bird Food:

    • Opt for high-quality bird food free from cheap fillers. Store the food properly to maintain its quality.
  2. Keep Bird Feeders Clean:

    • Clean bird feeders and water dishes weekly to prevent disease transmission. Use natural cleaners safe for birds, and rotate feeder placements to avoid contamination.
  3. Understand Different Bird Species:

    • Learn about the various bird species visiting your garden and tailor your feeding approach accordingly. Different birds have distinct dietary preferences.
  4. Ensure Unfrozen Bird Baths:

    • Provide fresh, clean drinking water for garden birds at all times. Prevent freezing by placing a small plastic ball in the water to maintain movement.


Feeding birds in winter is a rewarding and beneficial practice, promoting the well-being of our avian friends during the challenging months. By adhering to these guidelines, bird lovers in the UK can contribute to the sustenance and flourishing of their local bird populations. Remember to be consistent, knowledgeable about the birds in your area, and vigilant in maintaining a clean and safe feeding environment. If you're away during the winter months, ensure that someone trustworthy continues to feed the birds in your absence, fostering a sense of community care for our winged companions.

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