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RSPB giving nature a home

 

 

 

Spreading the warmth
for garden birds this winter

December 2017

black bird

Winter is a challenging time for our feathered friends. Whilst we may enjoy the beauty that this season brings and appreciate it from the warmth of the hearths in our homes, garden birds can find it a gruelling fight for survival as they face the elements. Freezing and starvation are some of the risks birds face, and smaller species need to eat up to a third of their bodyweight each day in order to make it through these harrowing months.


Below are some top tips to help birds over the winter months:

  • Pick ‘n mix: The best thing you can do is to provide a variety of food. But to keep energy up during the colder months, the RSPB suggests calorie-rich foods like mixed seed, nyjer seed, sunflower seed and good-quality peanuts.
  • DIY SOS: Fat balls or homemade bird cakes only take a few minutes to make and are a great activity that can be shared with the grandchildren. These can be made cheaply with lard or suet and are an excellent full-fat winter food.
  • Waste not want not: You don’t have to buy food in specially, kitchen scraps like mild grated cheese, old fruit, cooked rice, unsalted bits of fat, roast potatoes and raw porridge oats will all be gratefully received.
  • Not for consumption! There are some foods you should avoid as they can be dangerous for birds. Cooking fat from the roast or Christmas turkey mixes with meat juices during cooking to make a runny, greasy mixture. This sticks to feathers and stops them from being waterproof. It is often full of salt too, which is toxic to birds. Other foods to avoid are dried coconut, cooked porridge oats, milk, and mouldy or salted food.
  • Keep it flowing: Another essential is fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finding sources of water can be hard with freezing temperatures, but a simple trick will help keep a patch of water ice-free. Float a small item, such as a ping-pong ball, or twig on the surface of the water and even a light breeze will stop it from freezing over.

  • Shelter from the storm: Providing shelter from the harsh weather is extremely important. Plant dense hedges such as privet or hawthorn, or let ivy or holly to grow and you’ll be providing a great place to roost in and shelter from the elements.

  • Winter warmth: Nestboxes are not just used over the summer egg-laying season – many birds will use them on a cold winter’s night. These boxes are frequently communal with many residents packing in together for extra warmth. The record number of birds found in one box is 63 wrens!

Ensuring your garden is filled with food now will improve your chances of having a successful Big Garden Birdwatch. The RSPB’s annual event is on Saturday 27, Sunday 28 and Monday 29 January 2018. To take part, all you need to do is spend one hour at any time over that weekend noting the number of avian visitors to your garden or nearby park. You can sign up for this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch from December 13 at rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.


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