National Bird Day: Top tips for encouraging feathered friends into your garden

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Winter presents challenges for birds and wildlife in our gardens.

There's less food available, ponds and puddles freeze, and it's harder to keep warm.

Here are the some top tips for helping our feathered friends to survive the colder months:-

Provide food

- Suet balls and fat blocks in wire cages provide plenty of nutrients and can be purchased from garden centres. Balls in plastic nets are not recommended as birds such as woodpeckers can get their tongues caught

- You can even make your own 'bird cake' using ingredients, berries and, er, insects! You can find recipes online

- Finely chopped bacon rind and grated cheese are ideal for small birds such as wrens

- Don't feed them bread - it can cause digestion problems and has little nutritional value

- Seeds and nuts are also important for a balanced diet

- Use wire mesh feeders for peanuts and seed feeders for other seed

- Feed placed on a wire mesh held just off the ground will entice ground-feeding birds such as robins and dunnocks

- Scatter fruit such as over-ripe apples, raisins and songbird mixes on the ground for thrushes and blackbirds

Clean your feeders and bird table regularly

It will stop diseases spreading

Keep the squirrels away

Grey squirrels love stealing bird food. Squirrel-proof feeders are available, and you can also buy a capsicum pepper mix that deters them

Break the ice on your bird bath

To ensure birds still have a plentiful supply of water for drinking and bathing

Provide bird boxes

Great in the spring and summer, but many species will occupy them earlier in the year, when frosty conditions are still likely

Provide nesting materials

Collect small piles of twigs and moss and leave them for birds to find easily as they start to nest