Cold comfort for garden birds - RSPB issues feeding tips for the winter
|Published: 15th January 2010 12:07|
With snow and freezing temperatures across the UK , the RSPB is appealing
for people to spare a thought for the birds who need our help to survive
the cold snap.
Finding food and ensuring they eat enough of it to
build - and maintain - adequate fat supplies to store
on the body and ‘burn' for energy is the greatest test
for wild birds in winter.
And the food and water we provide can
be the difference between life and death in
When temperatures fall below freezing, our birds struggle to find the
food they need to survive the winter in healthy condition, vital for breeding
Natural food is covered in snow and ice and impossible to get to. Water
birds may be forced to leave iced-over lakes and rivers. The ground becomes
too hard for birds like thrushes and lapwings to probe, and natural food like
berries, acorns and seeds is buried.
During cold snaps like this current one, birds are more likely to come into our
gardens to seek sanctuary. People can help improve birds' chances of survival
through these cold periods by providing food like meal worms, fatballs, crushed
peanuts, dried fruit and seeds and grain.
They could also put out leftovers like grated cheese, porridge oats, soft fruit,
unsalted bacon, cooked rice and pasta and the insides of cooked potatoes.
Water is also vital for both drinking and bathing and bird baths can be kept
from freezing over using small floating items like twigs or ping pong balls.
Gemma Rogers, RSPB spokesperson says:
"When winter arrived with a
vengeance , our garden birds were
in for a nasty shock".
"Insects become harder to find and seeds and berries can be locked away
by snow and frost.
"Freezing weather is a potential death sentence for many birds but by feeding
the birds in your garden, people can help them survive the worst of the winter
weather. Just a little water, food and shelter can turn your garden into a vital
haven for birds in the freezing winter months."
The RSPB is asking people to follow a wild bird winter survival plan that will
help wildlife during the harshest weather.
1. Put out feed regularly, especially in severe weather. Set up a bird table and
use high calorie seed mixes. This can also be used to put out kitchen
scraps such as animal fats, grated cheese and porridge oats.
2. Put out hanging feeders for black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts,
sunflower-rich mixes or unsalted peanuts.
3. Ensure a supply of fresh water every day. If it is very cold use tepid water but
DO NOT use any antifreeze products.
4. Put out fruit, such as apples and pears, for blackbirds, song thrushes
and other members of the thrush family.
5. Food bars or fat hung up or rubbed into the bark of trees is a great help for
treecreepers, goldcrests and many other species.
6. Put up nest boxes to provide roost sites for the smaller birds. They will then
be used for breeding later in the year.
Leftovers from meals can also provide a welcome boost for wildlife - cake crumbs,
pastry and cheese are all readily eaten by wild birds.
People may also notice a change in the behaviour of birds given the extreme
conditions. You may witness a flurry of activity first thing in the morning - as
birds replenish energy lost overnight - and last thing in the afternoon - to
prepare for the long night ahead.
During a hard winter birds have to feed at an accelerated rate, but must also
take adequate time out to rest and conserve energy. Many birds become more
sociable to improve their chances of survival during cold weather. Flocking
together in winter improves the chances of locating food and huddling together
during the critical night-time period helps conserve body heat.
The ability to fly is also a key to survival and can lead to sudden - and dramatic
- changes in the birdlife of an area. Flying to milder regions in search of areas
less affected by the weather or where food is still readily available is a vital tactic.
Garden birds benefit significantly from the increased variety and quality of food
that people put out in their gardens. The RSPB Birdcare range offers a wide
variety of high quality food and 100% of the profits go to wildlife conservation.
See www.rspbshop.co.uk/ for full details.
More information about helping garden wildlife is
available at http://www.rspb.org.uk/
RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2010
The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch - the world's biggest bird survey - will take
place on Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 January 2010 to discover more about
how birds are faring in the nation's gardens. Visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch