The start of the year traditionally sees the first spell of severe winter weather and with it an influx of birds from the countryside to urban and rural gardens. Urban gardens, where the temperature is enerally slightly higher than in rural areas, may see the largest numbers of small birds.
At the end of the month the longer days bring the first spring songs, as birds such as Song Thrush and Blackbird prepare to defend their territory and win a mate.
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.
The short days of winter see feeding activity reach a peak as birds try to build up sufficient energy reserves to see them through the long, cold nights.
Make sure there are sufficient and regular supplies of good quality foods available, particularly if the ground is frozen or covered in snow when it is much harder for birds to find food.
Feed high-energy 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
For garden birds a regular supply of clean water is essential for drinking and bathing and the advice is the same as for December. During spells of freezing weather, it is even more important to provide a regular supply of water for the birds and you should keep your birdbath free of ice using warm water. Don’t be tempted to add anything to the water to prevent it freezing.
January often brings very cold weather and temperatures well below freezing, often accompanied by snowfalls. When the ground is frozen or covered in snow it can be very difficult for birds to find food, so it is even more important to provide food during such cold spells.
However, January can also see mild weather and temperatures sometimes reach double figures. Spells of warm and sunny weather can cause birds and plants to behave as if spring has already arrived, with severe consequences if conditions then revert to normal.
If you haven’t yet done so, put up a new nest box in time for the new breeding season.
As in December you should pay particular attention to keeping your feeders and feeding areas clean due to the increased numbers of birds likely to be visiting your garden in search of food. Avoid cleaning or disturbing the feeding area during the first and last hours of daylight, the most important feeding times for the birds.
Birds to look out for…
Visitors to your garden during cold spells may include Mistle Thrush (pictured on the left), Fieldfare and Redwing as well as woodland species such as Nuthatch (pictured on the right), Treecreeper and Jay.
If the weather is very harsh you may see water birds such as Grey Heron and Kingfisher who will be unable to find food in their frozen habitat.
Look out for unusual visitors, particularly if you live in the London suburbs where Ring-necked Parakeets often come to feeders in search of peanuts. In southern and western Britain, the mild climate sees Chiffchaffs often visit southern and western Britain over winter to take advantage of the mild climate.
In prolonged spells of cold weather, birds may leave some parts of northern and eastern Britain and head south and west in search of warmer weather and new sources of food.As the evenings begin to get lighter, look and listen out for Song Thrushes singing from rooftops.