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Planning Retirement Online

Don't Forget the Birds

January 2014

We first wrote about caring for your pets in winter four years ago (see Laterlife Dec 2009). Since then the RSPCA have said that, while they are on full alert during any really cold snaps, many of us can also do our bit to help prevent animals suffering.

Their advice includes a number of key aspects about helping wild birds. Many of us like to look after wild birds in our garden, but in a really cold snap they can require more feeding.

The RSPCA suggest wild birds should be fed a range of seeds including sunflower seeds, nyjer, millet and oats.  Birds can also benefit from table scraps such as cooked pasta or rice, boiled potatoes, cheese or even uncooked and unsalted bacon rind. Raisins and sultanas are okay for birds as well, but be aware they can be toxic to dogs.

Net free fat or suet balls are a great provider of calories during winter months and can attract a wide range of species. If you have some fruit like apples, pears or even soft fruits, you may be surprised at how popular these are with your garden birds in mid winter.

Peanuts are a typical food many of us provide for our wild birds, but we need to be careful. Some peanuts, especially peanuts stored and transported in poor conditions, contain aflatoxin, a poison that is particularly harmful. Generally only give wild birds peanuts that are fresh and sold for human consumption or form a reputable supplier.

Most supermarkets and pet shops will also sell insects such as mealworms or waxworms, and these are also particularly welcome at this time of year, especially to robins and song thrushes.

In the coldest winter spells, it can be easy to forget that wild birds need fresh water. Water bowls should be placed away from bushes and other areas where predators might hide, and should be kept clean and filled up.

In fact cleanliness is really important as surprisingly, the RSPCA say that a lot of birds die each year through the transmission of diseases, some of which are contracted through dirty feeders and water bowls.

They recommend that all feeders are cleaned weekly and water containers cleaned daily, and then thoroughly rinsed with clean water and dried before refilling.

They also suggest feeding areas around the garden should be changed so that pathogens like bacteria or fungi won’t build up on the ground below.

There’s more information about wildlife in winter on the RSPCA website


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