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The bare branches of winter make it easy to spot birds birds active in your garden. Robins are one of the first species you're likely to see and hear with males marking out their territories ready for the coming breeding season. Robins are fiercely territorial and will drive away any rivals from their chosen patch.

Wellies

To encourage robins to breed in your garden put out an open fronted nest box. You can buy special boxes specifically designed for robins but make sure it is well protected to prevent predators climbing in.

Providing food and water is especially important during December as natural sources will be in scarce supply and water will often be frozen over.

Hang your bird feeders if you've not already put them out - there are many models available designed to keep rats, cats pigeons and squirrels away and you can get feeders to fit onto walls, window, windowsills or balconies is space is limited.

You can leave out larger chunks of food on your bird table at this time of year as there is no risk of baby birds choking on them. Birds need food with high energy content to help them survive the cold winter months so put out peanuts, fat balls, cheese, bacon and suet. You can also buy specialist bird food such as live mealworms. The greater the variety of food that you supply, the greater the variety of birds you are likely to see in your garden. Urban gardens will be particularly attractive to birds during the winter because of the warmth stored inside cities.

Shrubs and trees which produce berries will provide a valuable source of food for birds in your garden and it is widely believed that red and orange berries are more popular with birds than yellow berries. You can plant trees, shrubs or even a mixed shrub hedgerow to provide berries for birds any time in the winter, provided the ground isn't frozen or waterlogged. Try Sorbus, Berberis and Pyracantha. Now is also the time of year to plant a rugosa rose to provide hips next year

Greater and lesser spotted woodpeckers will appreciate a home-made hanging log feeder. A rotten log, with holes in it filled with suet, can be suspended from a tree branch, to mimic the natural feeding habitat of woodpeckers.

A bird bath will be an important source of drinking water for birds during the winter, especially in cold areas liable to freezing. Ensure that your bird bath is topped up, and kept free of ice - use a special product for de-icing your bird bath as antifreeze and other chemicals are harmful to birds.

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