The birds that survived Winter are searching for more food. Others are starting to show a wonderful courtship display in your garden.
If a small bird has survived the winter up to now, it has done well. February birds have proved themselves resilient and resourceful, and are three-quarters of the way to entering the forthcoming breeding season alive. Life as a bird can be harsh but the ones you see in your garden might just make it through.
This second month of the year does not reach out and give them the help they need. Far from it — the last and most treacherous threat to their welfare only now begins to bite. At this time of year, on top of the pressure brought on by long, freezing nights and unreliable days, food supplies in the wild begin to run out. We have reached the ‘hungry gap’.
For more information on the hungry gap — check out this article.
It’s still a tough time for garden birds
The problem is that many bird species, including tits, thrushes and finches, have effectively spent the last few months subsisting on the fruits of autumn. But such supplies of nuts, seeds and berries are, of course, finite — winter sees a little set of seeds, but not much.
Food is running out and the places birds frequent for natural food are few and far between. Birds are resilient though and they don’t give up easily. Birds will start to look further afield. The late winter sees a great deal of moving about from district to district, by flocks and by individuals, shifting about checking for food in new places.
Get ready for the siskins!
Siskins might start to appear in your garden and spend a little time on your tube feeders — make sure you have perches! Siskins are gorgeous birds, finch-like with green and yellow feathers.
You might also start to spot Bullfinches. February starts to produce early buds on trees and these will attract the bold wanderers into your garden. Not everyone is happy about it, some gardeners find Bullfinches to be a nightmare, they can eat up to 45 buds a minute.
But if you have a wildlife garden, welcome them in with your budding trees.
Bullfinches are flocking birds and they will often only descend on gardens when the low supplies of its favourite wild foods, such as ash seeds, determine that it must.
Very welcome guests
You might also start to see other birds appearing in your garden. Fieldfares and Redwings took over gardens last year during the beast from the east and this could happen again. They are Winter thrushes and nomads that have a habit of turning up overnight in new locations to plunder the remaining berries.
Only the fittest survive
February is, unfortunately, the great cull month for our garden birds. Weak individuals are already long gone, and now, with food shortages, many very strong and fit birds also perish.
The ones that have survived are now starting to show their superiority, by taking to the trees and broadcasting their songs. You might see Robins singing from high places like telegraph poles, tall trees and signposts.
If you listen close enough the garden can be a whole symphony of music from the different varieties of birds.
Blue Tits become sassy
You might not notice it at first, sometimes we can take blue tits for granted in the garden. But at this time of year, they are starting to display and sing loudly. They sing with gusto in February and start to dance in the garden in their display flights.
In a sense, these display-flights make a statement about the present and the future. Without feeling well fed and healthy, a bird will simply not undertake such routines; its ability to display underlines its present condition.
As for the future, a blue tit flight begins at any ordinary perch but is usually directed towards a potential nest-hole. And breeding is its intended target in the next few months.
How can you help in February?
Surviving is the goal this month, with a slight side thought on nesting. So supporting these two things will help your birds loads.
- Add food to the garden — high energy foods like suet and Autumn Winter mixes are still viable. You could also put out Finch & Siskin for your farmland birds
- Adding nestboxes is really important. It’s #nationalnestboxweek between 14th-21st February and that’s no coincidence, get them up before the end of the month.
- Nesting material towards the end of the month will be good too — anything from pet hair to yarn is perfect.
- Bird baths are still a priority — birds will be bathing and drinking so keep them clean and ice free.