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Caring for wildlife in winter

Wildlife has three basic needs – namely food, water and shelter. If you can provide any of these three needs during winter you will be going a long way to helping our native wildlife.


Bird feeders, which the birds can dart into when they feel threatened, should be placed about 10ft from shrubs or trees. Feeders should be cleaned every few weeks to stop the build up of mouldy food and parasites which can have a devastating effect on birds, especially in winter.

There is a vast array of feeders and feeds on the market to buy. Sunflower hearts are good and nyger seed will help in attracting more unusual birds like goldfinches – have a good read at the labels on the food before buying. Peanuts will attract many birds and even red squirrels. Even peanut butter and leftover fruit can be used on your bird table.


When natural water supplies start to freeze over, birds and animals find it difficult to drink, and still need to wash. A shallow container filled with lukewarm water every day will help enormously.


Shelter is vital during winter months. Provide an area where you can pile stones and larger pieces of wood, leaves and sticks. This will provide shelter for many animals. Why not make your own “Insect Hotel”. Simply construct a small wooden box and fill tightly with old garden canes, sticks, stones – anything that will provide very small nooks and crannies for the insects to overwinter in. Remember, if the insects do badly in winter, our birds will struggle to supply food to their chicks in the spring. Don’t clean out your garden pond until the end of February – this will provide shelter for overwintering larvae and amphibians.

Finally – take care on the roads – many animals are driven nearer towns during really bad weather and you are more likely to come across them on the roads in winter. Some are even attracted by the salt grit we put on our roads during freezing weather.

Robert Potter, Reserves Manager North East, Scottish Wildlife Trust