European Wilderness Society

Rules of feeding birds in winter

It is well known that not all our birds migrate to warmer climates in winter, with many species staying at home. What is less well known is several generally warmer regions, including Central Europe is often the wintering ground for birds from areas with harsher winter climates further north. These birds are able to survive the winter naturally without human help and feeding, thanks to evolutionary adaptation (of which migration is an important element).

The purpose of feeding is not to keep the birds alive!

Stable and self-sustaining populations of wild animals (all species except domestic and companion animals in a human-controlled breeding and husbandry environment) can only survive where they can find the basic conditions for their survival (food, shelter, breeding and resting places). The migration of animals, including birds, has evolved precisely to enable them to cope with periodic food shortages. Even a songbird the size of a sparrow can fly 1 000 km in 24 hours and maintain this speed for several days at a time.

That’s why the purpose of feeding songbirds in winter is not to keep them alive, but to attract them to us. There are two basic reasons for this:

  1. the sight of birds and the opportunity to observe them up close is an extraordinary experience for children and adults alike, and it also encourages us to protect the natural environment
  2. The presence of birds provides biological protection through the weed seeds, insect and rodent pests they collect near feeding areas.

So everyone wins at songbird feeding, humans and birds alike, but only if it’s done right and at the right time!

Guidelines for winter feeding

The birds that stay in Central Europe and come to winter here can survive the winter without human help. The reason why they do not migrate south or migrate to these regions, is that they find adequate food here in autumn and winter. And if this situation changes due to weather extremes (mainly snow) or the depletion of natural food sources, the birds will move to another area and continue their flight without any problems.

Consequently, there is no need to feed the birds. If we want to marvel at them, it is possible to feed them, but only in such a way that our marvel and enjoyment does not harm them.

  • the feeding period lasts from the first frosts until the end of the first frosts, from the beginning of December until the second half of March
  • sunflower seeds are sufficient food
  • In addition, fruit (apples and berries such as wild grapes, ivy) can be given
  • and even some animal fat (mainly duck, goose and pig fat)
  • birds of the feeders are not food waste disposers. Do not feed them food waste
  • in addition to the feeder, put out water. For many species the winter drinking and bathing area is the real attraction
  • Do not feed the birds during the breeding season, after the chicks have hatched, as this causes mass mortality and functional starvation of the chicks, who are unable to digest the seeds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *