Preparing to feed farm birds through the winter

The beautiful weather this year means our crops are growing well in the fields and we will soon be preparing to harvest them. 

Growing alongside the crops are acres of specially selected mixed plants designed to provide farm birds with habitat, shelter and food through the harsh winter months.

One of our bird/wildlife areas (fodder radish just coming into flower).

We have always put aside areas of land across our farms for birds and wildlife to take cover, nest and feed. Currently there are 38 acres of land across our farms that are not commercially cropped which are planted with a special selection of plants to provide winter food and shelter for the birds on our farms.

These areas are important food resources, particularly for small seed eating farmland birds in the autumn and winter months. Between January and March birds face a ‘hungry gap’ and can even starve to death. By planting a combination of plants designed to provide small seeds through the winter months we will help birds survive the winter and even enter next year in better condition for successful breeding.

The bird/wildlife area at the back of Giddy Gate Farm.

Which plants and why are they beneficial?

A mixture of cereals (barley, triticale, red millet, white millet) and brassica species (fodder radish and kale) have been planted across the plots.

Cereals

  • Triticale – A hybrid of wheat and rye, which is great in combination with millet as a crucial food for farmland birds. Stands tall over winter in all but heavy snow. Good food supply well into the new year.
  • Red and White Millet – provides cover (a place to hide and shelter) and a high protein food source. Red millet sheds its seeds first and gives good cover to partridge in particular. White millet plants hold onto their seeds through the winter months, this provides an ongoing nutrition.
  • Barley –  Taller cover and a valuable cereal seed for farm birds.

Triticale

Millet

Barley

Brassicas

  •  Kale – A hardy crop, providing a lot of small seeds plus excellent warm winter cover for birds to hide and   shelter in.
  •  Fodder Radish – Wonderful spring seeded crop that has seeds held in pods that ripen slowly providing food through the winter and flowers attract insects/ pollinators which also provide food.

Kale

Fodder Radish

Farmland birds that will benefit.

The plant species grown in these special overwintering plots contain come of the preferred crop types of declining seed eating birds such as;

  • Yellow hammer
  • Tree sparrow 
  • Linnet 
  • Reed Bunting
  • Skylarks
  • Corn bunting

Yellow Hammer

Skylark

Tree Sparrow

Other more common species will naturally take advantage of the food (both seed and insect) and shelter on offer. In our area these include;

  • Pheasant
  • Grey partridge
  • Chaffinches
  • Collared doves
  • Wood pigeons
  • Blackbirds
  • House sparrow
  • Dunnocks 
Plus many more species of birds, mammals and insect life will benefit from these plots than those mentioned above.

Grey Partridge

Chaffinch

Pheasant

Our bird plots are all located next to mature hedgerows made up of native plants, providing even more shelter for little birds, places to nest and food sources in the form of insect pollinators in the spring and summer months and berries in the autumn and winter.

It is rewarding to see the results of our conservation efforts at Giddy Gate Farm and to be able to enjoy the butterflies, bees, pollinators and birds that will take advantage of our wild bird plots right across the farms this year.

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