Winter is a difficult time for birds - they need to find food for energy and to build fat stores to keep warm through long, cold nights. Smaller birds need to eat up to a third of their bodyweight each day.


There are two ways in which you can feed birds in winter. Firstly you can grow plants that will provide them with food, such as berries and seeds, and other plants that will provide a habitat for insects that they can eat.

Discover 10 plants for birds.

Secondly, you can provide birds with supplementary bird food in bird feeders - especially useful during winter and early spring, when natural foods are in short supply, and snow and ice can make accessing them harder. But it's worth making sure that feeders are kept topped up all year round, as birds will get used to them and it saves them making a wasted journey.

Here are some ways to feed your garden birds.

Grow berried plants

Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants. These are an important part of a bird's diet - they help them to endure long periods of physical activity. Discover 10 berried plants for birds.

Crimson berberis berries

Provide the right foods

Sunflower hearts and seeds, nyjer seeds, seed mixes, peanuts or suet? Different types of food suit different birds. Watch our No Fuss video guide to the different types of bird food.

Types of bird food
Blue tits on a bird feeder containing peanuts

Grow your own bird food

Many plants not only look good but provide abundant, easy-to-access food for birds. This means they don't waste precious energy looking for food. Both the plants and the birds will add winter interest to your garden. Discover how to grow your own bird food.

Magenta Cirsium rivulare flowers

Make your own fat balls

Birds love fat cakes, especially in winter - they give them energy and keep them warm. But the feeding balls needn't be shop bought; you can use all sorts of kitchen scraps such as cheese and dry porridge oats. Discover how to make fat cakes for birds.

Home-making fat balls for birds

Make a simple feeder

Make a simple feeder using terracotta pots packed with fat cakes to attract a variety of birds, including great tits. Discover how to make a hanging bird feeder.

Terracotta pot bird feeder
A home-made terracotta pot bird feeder
Don't forget to provide fresh water for birds - they will drink it and bathe in it, even in winter. Bathing helps them keep their feathers pristine and insulating. Make sure it doesn't freeze over.

Are you a keen wildlife gardener? Why not take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch on Friday 27th to Sunday 29th January 2023?

Sadly, birdlife in the UK is struggling and according to the RSPB, our bird population has declined by a staggering 38 million over the last 50 years.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch, is now in its 43rd year and a great way for wildlife enthusiasts to get involved as citizen scientists and keep an eye on visiting garden birds. Last year over a million people took part, which helped the RSPB create an accurate picture of how our feathered friends are getting on, as well as highlighting which species most need our help.


Find out more about taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch.