February’s Bird Care Tips
As in January feeding remains very important for garden birds. During the cold winter weather garden birds need additional calories to allow them to build up the fat reserves and energy levels that they need to survive the long, cold nights. And, with supplies of natural food getting low, it is even more important to put out plenty of food for the birds.
Here you will find some handy hints on the birds you may see in your garden this month and what you can do to help them.
It is important to keep feeding and to think about the needs of possible new arrivals in your garden, such as Blackcaps and winter thrushes (Redwing and Fieldfare), which like to eat windfall apples.
Make sure that your seed and peanut feeder are topped up regularly, and continue to pay careful attention to hygiene (see the January tips for more advice)
As birds require extra calories in winter, we recommend feeding high calorie foods such as Black Sunflower Seeds, Sunflower Hearts, Hi-Energy Seed, Hi-Energy No Mess or Peanuts, or high-calorie fat products such as our Peanut Cakes. We’ve also had reports of Fieldfare and Redwing (along with Blackbirds) eating Hi-Energy Ground Blend.
If the cold weather continues, a supply of clean water for drinking and bathing is almost as important as a regular supply of good quality food. Birds need to keep their plumage in top condition to help them fight the cold.
If you have a garden pond or bird bath, keep it free from ice by using warm water from a saucepan or kettle. Don’t use chemicals to melt the water and replace the water on a regular basis.
February is often the coldest month of the year, witnessing the year’s longest spells of ice and snow. Prolonged spells of harsh winter weather can seriously affect bird numbers, which is why it is so important to provide a regular supply of high-energy foods during cold snaps.
However, February can also be very mild and spells of warm and sunny weather can cause birds to begin acting as if spring has arrived early. In 1998 temperatures reached 20°C in some parts of south-east England, causing some birds to begin nesting early.
This month you should take a quick look at your nest boxes, making sure they are easily accessible to the birds and that the entrances are not obscured by foliage. Do this in daylight to avoid disturbing roosting birds.
Birds to look out for…
The numbers of several wintering species reach their peak in gardens, including Long-tailed tits
Starlings and finches such as Chaffinches and Greenfinches. These birds often come into gardens from the surrounding countryside, where supplies of natural food have run out. They are particularly fond of berries and will also appreciate peanut cake and Sunflower Hearts.
Chaffinch flocks may also include small numbers of Brambling, whose visits to gardens depend on their ability to find their main food supply, beech-mast.
As mentioned above, wintering Blackcaps also reach their peak in urban and suburban gardens. These birds are visitors from Germany who spend the winter months in Britain. They thrive in this country thanks to a plentiful food supply and our generally mild weather.
Cold weather on the Continent may see birds fleeing westwards to southern Britain. Look out for an increase in numbers of Robins and Song Thrushes, or an influx of Fieldfares (pictured right) and Redwings.
On mild sunny days bird song can suddenly be quite noticeable, with Dunnocks, Great Tits, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds adding their voices to that of the Robins that have sung throughout the winter.
You should also look out for Siskins, which are sometimes seen in February.