Wildlife charity the RSPB is urging the public to spare a thought for our garden birds during this spell of cold weather as many parts of the country continue to be covered in snow and ice.
Birds need more energy to stay warm at this time of year, but as temperatures drop and daylight hours remain short, our wild neighbours may struggle to find the food and shelter they need.
However, doing something simple such as making wildlife-friendly food and leaving out leftovers can improve your garden birds’ chances of survival throughout the colder months.
The RSPB suggests a number of easy ways to help our feathered friends (and get closer to nature) as they move into our gardens to find refuge:
- Kitchen scraps like mild grated cheese, bruised fruit (not mouldy), cooked rice, unsalted bits of hard fat, roast potatoes and dry porridge go down a treat with garden birds. You can provide an excellent full-fat winter food by making your own bird cakes or fat balls and the RSPB also suggests calorie-rich foods like mixed seed, sunflower seed, nyjer seed and good quality peanuts.
- There are some foods you should avoid though as they can be dangerous for birds. Cooking fat from the roast mixes with meat juices during cooking to make a runny, greasy mixture. This sticks to feathers and stops them from being waterproof. Other foods to avoid are dried coconut, cooked porridge oats, milk, and mouldy or salted food.
- 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 ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water and even a light breeze will stop it from freezing over.
- 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.
- 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!
For further information about the RSPB – including the recent Big Garden Birdwatch survey – visit www.rspb.org.uk
Main image: Blue tit on seed feeder (Ben Hall / RSPB)