Gardens

Monty Don reveals his tips for feeding birds through the winter

Supplement their natural diet with tasty morsels, and encourage feathered friends to return to your garden

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(Image credit: Alamy)

Do you notice that, when the temperatures drop and the dark evenings kick in, that you suddenly develop the appetite of a blue whale? Don't worry, we do, too. And so, for that matter, do our feathered friends. Which is why Monty Don's bird feeding tips couldn't have come at a better time. 

It's so important, if you can, to supplement a bird's winter diet by leaving treats and scraps out in the garden. Not only will it help them stay fit and well through the coldest months, it will have the added benefit of attracting them to your garden.

Writing on his website – montydon.com – this month, Monty notes that feeding the birds is one of his priorities in the garden in November.  

'As the weather changes, the birds greedily feed off any seeds and berries in the garden,' he notes. 'But they soon get taken. So supplementing this natural supply both helps them and provides a fascinating chance to share and observe their world.'

'In fact I would say that one of the things I most enjoy about winter is watching the birds feed at the table outside our kitchen window. It may not have the glamour of going on safari or a trip to the Galapagos. But it is just as rewarding and right on every gardener’s doorstep.'

Here are a few of Monty's tips for keeping garden birds well nourished and coming back for more.

Also see... Wildlife garden ideas, from The National Trust’s garden experts

1. Choose high-calorie food

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(Image credit: Future)

'Obviously it helps for the food to be as calorific as possible and seeds, nuts and fat are best of all,' writes Monty. 

Other foods to try include leftover pastry or cooked potatoes (never raw). Blackbirds and thrushes love to eat fresh fruit, and bread and rice are perennial favourites and perfectly good for birds. 

One possible surprise on the list is grated cheese, but lots of birds will enjoy it. 

2. Avoid anything salty

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(Image credit: Future/Shooting Times)

Cutting down on salt isn't just a good idea for humans – it's better for birds, too. Steer clear of leaving crisps, salted nuts or bacon out for them to eat, and stick to Monty's favourites.

'I buy dried mealworms too which robins, tits and wrens gobble up greedily,' he says. 'If in doubt sunflower seeds and fat-balls – preferably hanging so tits can land on them without being bullied away by more aggressive birds – are invariably popular.'

3. Fill a log with seeds

One problem with leaving food out for the birds is that less welcome visitors – such as pigeons or starlings – might eat it all up, leaving none for robins, blue tits and other species. 

To stop this, Monty has a neat trick. 'Find an old log with lots of cracks and crevices and pour seed over it,' he suggests. 'The smaller birds will extract every last bit from the fissures that bigger ones cannot reach.'

4. Top up regularly

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(Image credit: Future)

Hopefully, the local birds will enjoy your garden spread and want to pop back for more. If that's the case, you must remember to keep adding to your supply, as Monty explains. 'Birds use up precious energy in coming to your bird table, which is then wasted if it is bare.' 

He also encourages us to 'leave a fresh supply of water for them to drink, especially in freezing weather.'

For more of Monty's tips, follow him on Twitter @TheMontyDon