Wild Bird Mix & Winter Feeders – supporting birds during the “Hungry Gap”

Wild bird mixes are areas of seed rich plants grown by farmers and left unharvested through the winter specifically to provide food for wild birds.  

Flowering plants will produce food for winter

A mixture of plants such as wheat, linseed, quinoa, millet and sunflowers are grown to provide a range of seed sizes and types to appeal to a wide variety of seed eating farmland birds. e.g., yellowhammer, linnet, chaffinch, and grey partridge.


By late winter/early spring (Jan-April) most of the seed in these plant mixes, and the hedgerow berries, have been eaten. The wild birds can struggle to find sufficient food at this time. This period is often referred to as the ‘hungry gap’.

Filling up bird feeders in the Hungry Gap

Between December/April, SLP members work collectively to put out seed, either in feeders known as ‘hoppers’ (pictured) or spread on the ground. The seed fed in this way is also a varied mix suitable for all these farmland birds.

At the beginning of the project members agreed to each install between one and three of these hoppers, placing them in areas close to habitat features such as hedgerows and wild bird seed plots. This provides birds with suitable cover close by, when feeding so that they can dart back to safety when necessary.

By mounting feeders on fence posts or in free-standing frames, it discourages unwanted visitors, such as pigeons and deer so that the song-birds have the most benefit.

The hoppers were generously sponsored by the NFU through a grant to the Partnership. 

This wildflower plot was buzzing with insects, that in turn are food for songbirds in summer

Hedgerows - Connecting People & Wildlife

Two of the SLP’s group objectives are to create a network of wildlife corridors across the landscape and to connect with local communities. The SLP’s hedgerow restoration projects have achieved just that – connecting people and wildlife together.

Hedges are an incredibly important habitat for a range of farmland wildlife. They provide protection and shelter, hibernation, nesting sites and food. Careful management is key for the wildlife that use the farmland hedges.

Brown Hairstreak Butterfly project In the SLP the Brown Hairstreak butterfly was known to have a small population close to the village of Selborne. This butterfly relies on young blackthorn on which to lay its eggs. Careful hedgerow management by SLP members, has allowed blackthorn to sucker out providing the right habitat for Brown Hairstreak butterflies to thrive.
As a result of survey work by the SLP team of volunteers, we can show the much wider distribution of this butterfly across the landscape now, as shown on the map. Species are linked to habitat, and therefore the presence of species is a good indicator of suitably managed habitat

Improving habitat for one species generally benefits many others.

Some of the group’s hedge laying projects have involved local volunteers, and several training events have been held to share expertise. Groups such as the SDNP Rangers volunteers’ team, young farmers, Sparsholt College students and the South of England Hedge Laying Society have played an integral role in implementing this work. By using local, skilled hedge laying professionals, we are able to support local rural businesses, which is important to the group. In addition to these management techniques, SLP members have been actively planting new hedges across the entire partnership to extend the hedge network across the local landscape.

See our YouTube video - Hampshire Hedgerows  (South Downs National Park) which features SLP member, Kate Faulkner, talking about hedge-laying in the Selborne Landscape Partnership