Posted 9th Jan 2014
One of Britain's best-loved gardeners, Alan Titchmarsh, has partnered up with Pets at Home to appeal to anyone with a garden, big or small, to garden for wildlife and help feed and protect our birds this winter
Alan's appeal comes as wild birds are threatened and declining in the UK and are particularly vulnerable at this time of year. As we head into winter the Met Office has warned it is possible we could see severe weather conditions that will impact on birds' survival as they search for food and a place to nest.
To help our feathered friends through the cold snap there are a few small steps you can take in your garden...
A place to call home
Hear the birds chatter as they take shelter in their new homes by planting trees, hedges and shrubs. Trees that grow fruit and berries, such as holly, cherry, and hawthorn, are a great natural source of food, along with ponds and bird baths to provide a source of water. If your garden isn't large, or you're short of time, you can turn your garden into a five-star residence simply by putting up a bird house.
As natural food becomes scarcer during winter, the quickest and easiest way to attract birds is to put out food for them. Quality seeds, nuts, fat, fruit and mealworms are all essential for a healthy balanced diet and to keep their energy levels up. Food should be regularly replaced to avoid it getting mouldy or going off, though keep it out of reach of pesky predators. Birds can become dependent on the food, so never suddenly stop putting food out once you've started.
Threatened garden birds & what to feed them:
If you are lucky enough to see some of these threatened species in your garden, then why not help give them a bite to eat?
Arriving in autumn and staying throughout winter, starlings have declined 12% in the past year. Starlings need high protein and natural foods such as mealworms or dried fruit to thrive. These noisy characters like to hop around the garden, so lay food on the ground or in an easily accessible bird feeder. If you have a small garden then leave food in a window box. Every little helps!
HOUSE SPARROWS (left)
Monitoring suggests a severe decline in the British house sparrow population, recently estimated to have dropped by 71% between 1977 and 2008. The house sparrow will eat just about anything, though sunflower seeds, high energy seeds and suet are best.
SONG THRUSH (pictured at top of page)
The song thrush is a familiar and popular garden songbird whose numbers are sadly declining. Its habit of repeating song phrases distinguishes it from singing blackbirds. Song thrush like to feed on snails, sultanas, oats and ground mix.
The male bullfinch can be identified by its rosy red breast, whilst the female has a slightly duller brown breast. When they visit the garden they usually take seed from a hanging feeder or suet cake.
Where to buy food
By providing a consistent supply of wholesome treats, you can be sure that birds will return to your garden again and again. The Alan Titchmarsh Wild Bird Collection is now available at www.petsathome.com and features a range of seeds, suet treats and mealworms to attract a wide variety of species. Each product comes with helpful tips on attracting and feeding birds, as well as advice on keeping them healthy too.