How to prepare your garden for autumn and winter birds

Providing natural food and shelter for garden birds can make a huge difference to species survival in the winter weather ahead. Our guide explains how to make your garden bird-friendly this autumn and winter.

Published: November 4th, 2019 at 3:00 pm
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Providing natural food for garden birds, in addition to keeping bird feeders well topped up, can make a huge difference to birds’ survival in the winter weather ahead.


Our wildlife guide explains how to attract birds to your garden in autumn and winter, plus easy crafts to make.

Stock up feeders

great tit on peanut reader
A great tit, the largest of the UK tits, at a birdfeeder. It is a woodland bird which has readily adapted to man-made habitats to become a familiar garden visitor. Credit: Getty Images

Refill feeders with a mix of high quality seed, fat and mealworms to help provide birds with energy during the colder months.

Robin singing

Green manures

Sow green manure in the winter months to help wildlife thrive. (Getty Images)

Sow ‘green manures’, such as scorpion weed, into soils. These fast germinating plants smother weeds, which will benefit your garden and the visiting wildlife. If you plant them in time for them to flower, it will successfully feed bees and other pollinators with their nectar, and the later seeds will also provide birds with food during the “hungry gap” in late winter.

Wildflower meadows

garden wildflower meadow
Sow wildflower meadows ready for spring to feed insects and encourage birds to your garden/Credit: Getty

Wildflower meadows can also be sown now, ready for the next spring. These can include plants like bird’s foot trefoil, field scabious, ox-eye daisy and red clover. These meadows will feed insects, which in turn will feed garden birds.

Separate the perennial flowers

Summer flowering blue Geranium flowers also known as Crane's-bill can easily be split/Credit: Getty

After flowering, it is useful to divide up the perennials such as hardy geraniums, heleniums, phlox and primulas. By spreading them out or giving them to friends and family, this creates new feeding places for nature.

Leave seedheads

Gold finch on teasel
Adult goldfinch (Carduelis carduleis) feeding on teasel (Getty)

By leaving seedheads, this will feed birds and other wildlife during the autumn and winter months. After your birds return to your garden once the weather grows colder, this harvest will largely be to their benefit.

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Create a pond or birdbath

Garden Pond
Birds and other garden wildlife will benefit from a small pond/Credit: Getty

As well as planting, the more practical jobs can be completed to prepare fro autumn or winter. Birds use ponds/birdbaths for drinking and bathing throughout the year, and a wealth of other wildlife will also benefit. This does not have to be a massive project, as an upturned dustbin lid or old washing up bowl is just as useful.

Clean nest boxes

Nest box
Hang nest boxes for garden birds to seek sanctuary in the cold winter months. Credit: Getty Images

When the breeding season is over, towards the end of September, it is a good idea to clean out the nest boxes in your garden. Place the contents in your compost heap and use boiling water to clean out any parasites. After the box has dried out, replace the lid and hang it back up. Wrens and other small birds may use the box to keep warm during the winter. Remember to keep cleaning your bird feeders regularly.

Wildlife-friendly craft projects

Make a log bird feeder

On your next trip outside, keep an eye out for a nice sturdy log. With a few quick drills and screws, the old tree part can become the feeding platform for garden birds. It’s the perfect project for getting you outside using your hands, with the added value of offering support for local wildlife.

Illustration of log bird feeder

How to make fat balls for your garden birds

Most of us have kitchen staples that are also loved by birds - find out how to use yours up and make fat balls for your garden birds.

Adult sparrow seen perched on a bird feeder containing a high energy fat ball. Taken in early summer, the birds are feeding there out of view chicks.
A house sparrow feeds on a fat ball made from kitchen scraps. If buying fat balls, try to avoid the ones that come in little plastic nets. Birds can bet their feet caught in these and die. Getty Images

Make birdseed ornaments

For those who love watching garden birds, these inexpensive feeders will be a joy to hang around the garden. They're simple and fun to make and the birds love them.

Sunflower seed bird food heart ornament
Decorate your garden and help the birds with these pretty feeders. iStock

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