Berries for birds over winter

Most wild creatures try to fatten themselves up for winter to survive the ravages of the cold weather. Birds are no exception feeding voraciously on bugs and garden pests, seeds, nuts and garden fruit to sustain them through the cold winter months.

Ground feeders

Well-meaning gardeners supplement their diet with feeders packed full of highly nutritious seeds and nuts. These are perfect for the seedeaters, the tits and finches but little help to the wide variety of garden birds that cannot hang from dangling wire tubes. A few have adapted and can momentarily and precariously grip on, but the rest, the robins, blackbirds and thrushes hoover up spilt morsels beneath the feeders, in full reach of predators and in mortal danger. These are the ground feeding birds that shuffle and scuffle about in the undergrowth, searching for bugs and morsels of food. They are also the berry munchers, the silent army that sweep in and strip your plants of their blushing berries, sometimes apparently overnight. Almost as soon as they are ripe and ready to eat, the winged diners arrive en masse and feast like there is no tomorrow, gorging on the garden bounty. Rowans are the first berries to ripen and disappear, long before the clutch of winter grips the garden.

Fruit eaters

Berried plants attract a wide range of garden buddies to the garden. These are your pest busters, supplementing their diet with seeds, nuts, bugs and more as they forage deep in the garden leaf litter for food. Support them through the winter months with fresh water to drink, a place to bathe and a diet rich in calories and protein; mealworms, suet, sunflower seeds and peanut nibs. Richard Jackson’s Premium Bird Food is an excellent choice and will feed seed and fruit eaters and even the insectivorous species too. It’s designed to attract, feed and sustain all types of garden birds and is the perfect choice to partner your natural, berry bearing plants and provide energy rich ingredients throughout the year.

Planting for birds

But it’s just as important to plant some natural food too. Choose plants that bear berries, trees such as rowan, hawthorn and even crab apples as well as border shrubs like mahonia, pyracantha, berberis, cotoneaster, holly and ivy. The plants may take a while to mature, but by planting now you are investing in your garden and providing a fail-safe food source for future feathered generations. The added bonus is that these are good plants for pollinators, providing a rich source of nectar and sometimes pollen early in the season when food can be scarce.

Pyracantha berries. Image: Martin Mulchinock

Bird care

During winter it’s time to improve your bird care regime to support the feathered friends in your garden. Share your wrinkling stored fruit and windfalls, keep the birdbath clean and refilled, twice a day if necessary, our feathered friends need to bathe daily to keep their feathers waterproof and weather resistant. Frosted fruit and berries, softened by freeze/thaw is a good source of natural winter food. Supplement with a ground feeder dressed with a mix of suet, dried fruit and mealworms or invest in a bag of the super duper Richard Jackson’s Premium Bird Food.

Share the love

With the festive season approaching what better time to give a gift that keeps on giving. Bird feeders and a pack of bird food or two is the perfect present for children, adults and especially for home-bound pensioners. Watching the birds is a delightful pastime but most of all spend time in the presence of these sentient creatures and let their soulful songs, love of life and vital quest for survival bring some vibrancy to your day.

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