Forestry Commission
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Ranger Recommendations

Ranger Recommendations

The Forestry Commission Ranger Recommends


We get asked a lot about feeding birds when were out and about at our forest sites. The changing seasons bring with them different challenges for our forest and garden visitors so it is vital to keep a regular and varied offering at your feeding stations all year round.


A question we get asked a lot at this time of year is:
How can we help our garden birds in the winter?


As we get deeper into winter, the species that have remained in the UK will become more dependent on your help to find a supply of  nutritious foods and offering a balanced variety is the best way to continue attracting feeding birds into your gardens.

Don't forget, it is important to help garden birds all year round but there are certain times when natural food supplies are harder to find so our supplementary help is essential. The freezing winter weather should be a signal that help is required! 


If you’re just starting out feeding the birds our Starter Pack has everything you’ll need to outfit a small to medium sized garden. It is also a great way to encourage children to learn all about visiting species.


Check it out here 


The best foods to offer during the winter include...


  • Seed: All types of birdseed are suitable for summer fare, but black oil sunflower seeds, hearts or chips are the most popular option for a wide range of bird species. Nyjer will also attract finches, while mixed seed caters to different songbird species.
  • Fruit: Many songbirds enjoy cut up fruit. Apple chunks, banana slices and orange halves will attract a wide variety of visitors
  • Mealworms: Insect-eating birds will appreciate mealworms at backyard feeders, particularly when they need to build up energy reserves with fewer insects around. Mealworms are especially attractive to Wrens and Robins who just love them. They are taken by adults and chicks alike.
  • Peanuts: Shelled or whole peanuts are popular with many UK birds, and they can be offered in platform feeders, small dishes or specialized peanut feeders.
  • Suet: A great source of energy and will attract Wood Pigeons, Doves, Magpies, Black Birds, Starlings, Blue Tits, Dunnocks, Sparrows and Robins.

While a greater variety of foods will attract more birds, you should take care in what you put out. Don’t put out salted nuts, desiccated coconut, highly spiced food or very dry bread for example. It is fine to offer kitchen scraps to feed birds during the winter but try and use wholesome foodstuff. While small quantities of better bread, cooked rice and other scraps won't harm adult birds, these foods offer no nutrition for young birds.


Rangers tips for feeding winter birds

To make your winter bird feeding even more enjoyable for both you and the birds…


  • Keep feeders clean and regularly refresh the seed contained to avoid infections amongst the bird pouplation in your area.
  • Decrease the quantities of millet or cracked corn to attract a greater variety of birds instead of just house sparrows and starlings.
  • Keep cats indoors to protect ground feeding birds and immature fledglings just out of the nest.
  • Protect birds from window strikes by positioning feeders correctly and using anti-reflective techniques to make windows more visible.
  • Add a bird bath for a fresh water source that will attract not only feeding birds, but also species that need water but do not frequently visit feeders.

Winter is a great time to feed the birds, and with the right bird feeding techniques it is possible to enjoy dozens of beautiful bird species right in your own garden.


In fact, winter is a brilliant time for watching
all sorts of wildlife out in your garden.


Time for wildlife to find shelter…….


After making sure all your garden visitors have got sufficient food, the next thing to think about is shelter. It’s now a known fact that there are simply not enough nesting holes and natural roosting spots for our birds to shelter over winter and to nest in during spring. This is the perfect time of year for hanging new nest boxes or relocating old ones that have been empty for a while. If you have a nest box in your garden that has been unoccupied for a year or more, chances are that it’s not in an ideal location. The main things to remember when locating a nest box are: Face away from strong northerly or easterly winds but at the same time it must face away from direct sunlight, ideally they should be secured around 6’ up the tree to reduce ‘swaying’ and finally, away from smothering vegetation that will make it tricky to nip in and out of the nest box. Remember, you can never have enough nest boxes in your garden and if all located suitably, they’ll all be occupied by next spring and you’ll really be making a difference to the success of many of the UK’s favourite breeds of birds.

Have a look at our FSC sourced nest boxes here



When it comes to shelter, remember to spare a thought for any hibernating mammals that may have found refuge in your garden. Any cosy little spot could be a potential sheltering space including a pile of leaves or twigs. The most important thing to remember is to check beneath any bonfire sites before setting alight to them to check for sleepy hedgehogs!

We have a hedgehog home that has been designed with the help of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society. Click HERE for details. Place it in a quiet part of your garden, preferably against a bank, wall or fence and hope that you will have a visit from a friend seeking a home. Make sure the entrance to the house does not face North or North East, thus avoiding the cold winter winds. It may then become the winter home for some lucky hedgehog. If female, she may even have her young in it in the spring.

We hope you enjoy all that winter has to offer either in our great forests or your own garden.