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Preparing your garden for winter birds

Boreal tit, photo credit: Adèle Beausoleil

If, like me, you enjoy bird watching, it is possible to lend a helping hand to the species that spend their winters in France. From the arrival of the first frost in late November until the end of winter, it can be more challenging for birds to find a food source. Transform your garden into a welcoming space for these birds with simple and appropriate gestures.

Which birds can be seen in winter?

Among the most iconic in France, you can find the great tit, blue tit, marsh tit, boreal tit, coal tit, crested tit, long-tailed tit, goldcrest, wren, nuthatch, robin, common starling, goldfinch, blackbird, bunting, thrushes, bullfinch, hawfinch, greenfinch, siskin, chaffinch, sparrow, and tree sparrow.

Meadow grass, a source of abundance:

Flower meadows are ideal for promoting biodiversity and delighting our birds. You can sow or allow seed-bearing flowers to grow spontaneously in a part of your garden. Birds love seeds from "weeds" such as knotweed (Polygonum aviculare), false four-leaf clover (Oxalis deppei), or common thistle (Cirsium vulgare). By doing so, you can allow local and adapted wildflowers to naturally establish themselves in a portion of your garden and, if you wish, sow some seed-bearing flowers to complement your flowery meadow area.

I advise you to establish your meadow at the back of your garden, in a more "rural" area. This will encourage the passage of more timid bird species that may hesitate to approach too close to your house. Meadow can consist of a mix of local spontaneous flowers, annuals, biennials, perennials, or grasses. Combining them will provide you with colorful and staggered blooms throughout the year. Allow the flowers to wither on the plant and produce seeds that will be later consumed by the birds.

Shrubs and hedgerows, a refuge place:

Evergreen hedges and dense, diverse shrubs provide excellent shelter for birds during winter. November is the ideal time to complement your shrub palette with seed- and fruit-bearing species such as barberry (Berberis vulgaris), common juniper (Juniperus communis), holly (Ilex aquifolium), western red cedar (Thuja occidentalis), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), or sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides). Remember to prioritize species native to your regions.

Responsible and informed feeding:

During periods of severe cold and frost, you can supplement the birds' diet by placing a feeder in a quiet location. It should be kept clean and protected from predators. Small birds greatly appreciate sunflower seeds, millet, hemp seeds, or crushed corn. However, remember to gradually remove the feeding stations before the breeding season, as young chicks need to learn to feed themselves and find food in nature. Meadows and shrubs will provide them with a varied source of food, and their more dispersed location in the garden will encourage them to search for food.

A small water source:

Place a shallow bowl of clear water for birds to drink from, especially during freezing periods. Make sure to change the water regularly and keep the bowl clean to prevent the spread of diseases. Keep a vigilant eye and position the bowl at a height that is sheltered from both birds of prey and cats.

Finally, adopt an eco-friendly practice in your garden by avoiding the use of chemical products. By following these few tips, your garden will become a little paradise for winter birds, allowing you to freely observe their aerial ballet and fully enjoy their songs.


Here are some suggestions of seed-bearing plants to enhance your flowery meadow space:

  • Dill (Anethum graveolens)

  • Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

  • Wild carrot (Daucus carota)

  • Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)

  • Greater knapweed (Centaurea jacea)

  • Wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris)

  • Blue wax flower (Cerinthe major purpurascens)

  • Corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

  • Lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)

  • Mexican aster (Cosmos bipinnatus)

  • Sulphur cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)

  • Painted daisy (Chrysanthemum carinatum)

  • Globe thistle (Echinops ritro)

  • Wild or common fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

  • Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)

  • Flax (Linum mixed)

  • White millet (Panicum miliaceum)

  • Foxtail millet (Setaria italica)

  • Bee balm (Monarda fistulosa)

  • Honesty (Lunaria annua)

  • Corncockle (Agrostemma githago)

  • Phacelia with tansy leaves (Phacelia tanacetifolia)

  • Larkspur (Delphinium genus)

  • Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

  • Purple scabious (Scabiosa atropurpurea)

  • Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis)

  • Small-leaved valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Sources :

Isabelle C. 19/04/2021 . Le jardin : un garde-manger pour les oiseaux en hiver . gerbeaud . [en ligne]. [Consulté le 10/11/2021] . Disponible sur: . 21/12/2020 . Comment nourrir les oiseaux en hiver ? . ORNITHOMEDIA . [en ligne] . [Consulté le 09/11/2021] . Disponible sur: 09/12/2020 . Aménager son jardin pour les oiseaux . ORNITHOMEDIA . [en ligne]. [Consulté le 09/11/2021] . Disponible sur: 11/08/2021 . Semez ou laissez pousser des fleurs qui produisent des graines pour les oiseaux . ORNITHOMEDIA . [en ligne] . [Consulté le 09/11/2021] . Disponible sur:

Pierre Déom . (1973, Janvier) . « Les oiseaux de l'hiver » . La hulotte des ardennes, n°8.
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