Gardening: Help birds prepare for the winter

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As the natural habitats wild birds would have previously resided in are declining, due to increased cultivation and urbanisation, many more birds are looking for new homes in our gardens.

Active birds such as starlings, finches and sparrows are a great advantage to gardeners. They are the most 
eco-friendly pest control available, disposing of a huge number of the insects that attack our plants, as well as eating the weed seeds that might otherwise take root in your beds.

It’s not only incredibly useful to encourage these animals into our gardens by ensuring they have suitable environments to thrive in, but it’s also wonderfully rewarding, and an activity the whole family can get involved in.

A good way to encourage birds to take up residence in your garden is to provide lots of cover for them. Mixed hedges of hawthorn, holly and dog rose, as well as house and fence walls draped in shrubs, offer shelter, while conifers will provide a safe haven for all kinds of birds all year round.

Andrew Gold, plant manager at Dobbies, Edinburgh, offers some tips to help you encourage wild birds into your garden.

“With winter approaching, the foods naturally available for birds disappear. Invest in a bird table or feeder as soon as the weather turns. This will give the local bird population time to identify where they can find food easily, and build up their strength for the months ahead.

“Be sure to keep your tables and feeders nice and clean, hygiene is really important to help keep our birds disease free, and to keep pests at bay.”

During the colder months when everything ices over, birds can struggle to find a source of water to drink. A clean birdbath full of fresh water will not only keep birds healthy and clean but will add interest to your back garden.

Andrew adds: “Many birds use winter to scope out potential nesting places for the spring, anxious to get ahead and find the perfect spot for their brood before someone else swoops in and snaps up the best locations. Now is a great time to put up nest boxes for birds to familiarise themselves with, and they will also be used as shelter throughout the winter.”