blackbird perched on bowl

Autumn Bird Care – Nesting and Roosting

Give your garden birds the very best support to see them through autumn and winter says Jean Vernon.

Already the autumn leaves are falling; the fabulous autumnal hues cover our gardens and the countryside with a fiery blush. But outside in nature the wildlife is preparing for winter. It’s as important as ever to support the garden birds.

Feathers and fluff

The garden birds have raised their chicks, some have flown off to their winter residences, while others have moulted and are growing new feathers before the onset of colder weather. Birds fluff up their feathers to insulate themselves against the cold. It traps a layer of air between their feathers and their skin. But if their feathers are old and tatty they don’t work so well. So they lose the old ones and grow some new. It’s a huge drain on their health and wellbeing demanding lots of energy and nutrients to fuel the process. And that’s where you come in. Feed the birds, they really need our help to get ready for winter. Choose quality, energy rich bird food packed full of healthy ingredients and nutrients, such as Richard Jackson Premium Bird Food.

Coal Tit perched on branch
Birds fluff up their feathers to insulate themselves from the cold. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Roosting pockets

Birds like to roost somewhere safe, sometimes they perch high up in the trees. That’s because they are very vulnerable when they are sleeping. Many will roost in flocks for safety in numbers. Others will use dense foliage, hedges and nest boxes for shelter against the cold and the weather. 

Leave some ivy to clad garden walls, many small birds use ivy to shelter at night. Add a roosting pocket such as this Wildlife World Nest Pocket, it keeps small birds safe and warm during the cold winter months and also provides open fronted nesting sites for robins. You can tuck little nesting pockets inside hedges and beneath thick ivy, tie them in securely to keep the garden birds safe.

Nest boxes

The birds might have finished breeding and brooding for the season, but that doesn’t mean your garden nest boxes are redundant. Many are used for roosting and shelter by all manner of wild bird species. Take advantage of a sunny day to take the nest boxes down, clean them out and repair any cracks and damage that might let rain or wind inside. You could even add a perch in there to allow them to roost comfortably.

Traditional nesting boxes. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Traditionally nest boxes are installed for Valentines Day but actually setting them up before the onset of winter is a really good idea. It allows the nest box to settle into position, lose its human smell and become part of the garden furniture. The birds will get used to it being there and may even use it as a roosting site in cold weather. By spring, it is already in place to provide the perfect shelter for your garden birds to raise their family.

Family matters

If you’ve ever had nesting birds in your garden you will know what a privilege it is. All of a sudden the garden comes alive with activity with nest building, frantic foraging for food and the chirping of chicks as they greet their returning parents bearing food. Fledging chicks are a delight as they tower over their adult parents demanding food. Not to mention the amazing pest busting service that they do in our gardens. Add a birdbath and a feeding station and you’ve got the perfect set for a garden ‘soap opera’.

Wild birds are an amazing way to connect with nature and can be wild pets that you can enjoy and care for.

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