Christmas may now be well and truly over, but that doesn't mean that we have seen the worst of the winter weather. Indeed, it's still a long time until spring and January and February often present bleak and extremely cold conditions, with long periods of sub-zero temperatures.
If this is enough to dampen our spirits, then it can be downright dangerous for our wild birds. Not only do they have to hide from the worst of the weather, but they also have to carry on looking for food at a time when seeds, insects and worms are very difficult to access.
Small-bodied birds in particular will need to eat almost continuously to stay alive and restore the body weight they lose over the winter, but nature offers up little in the way of nourishment at this time of year, especially when there is snow around.
With many of the UK's commonest birds having declined over the past 25 years, why not take some steps now to help those in your garden get through this harshest of seasons? Here are the best ways of taking care of your feathered friends - both now and over the rest of the year.
Offer food regularly
Birds need to know they have a regular supply of food if they're going to visit your feeders, so top them up first thing in the morning and again in the late afternoon if necessary. Take special care to replenish their supplies after really bad weather such as blizzards too, as the birds will need to eat once the worst conditions have passed.
Always put your feeders in sheltered locations so they don't get buffeted by wind and rain or you may find that your birds will avoid them in favour of neighbours' that are better situated.
Feed high-calorie seed mixtures
There will be many species using your feeders, so offer food that will cater for as many of them as possible and is also rich in energy to compensate for the cold weather. For example, our Hi Energy No Mess product is full of premium quality ingredients and is specially formulated for wide appeal, which is why it has been a customer favourite for 15 years.
Don't forget to clear your feeders of snow and ice so that the birds can continue to get to it - and clean them with mild disinfectant or soapy water regularly so bacteria cannot begin to breed.
Provide fresh drinking water
You may already have a bird bath, but they are often frozen over when temperatures plummet and that means birds can find it difficult to get access to fresh drinking water. Try to go out every morning to break the ice on the surface, or just melt it with a jug of tepid water if you prefer. Don't be tempted to add any kind of chemical agent to the bath to prevent freezing, as this is likely to poison the birds.
Add shelter for them to hide in
Although even the smallest birds will fluff up their feathers and hide in dense trees or hedgerows to get away from biting winds and snow, it's better to offer them some form of proper shelter if you can.
This would be the ideal time to invest in a nest box, which you can put up facing somewhere between north through to south-east away from draughts, on something like the side of a shed, house or tree.
We have a wide range of nest boxes here at CJ Wildlife depending on which species you want to cater for, with our exclusive WoodStone® boxes being guaranteed to last for 10 years!
You may not be able to invite your feathered friends into your home for a warm in front of the fire, but you can do the next best thing for resident garden birds by following this advice to guard them against wintry weather.