Wildlife charity The RSPB has issued some guidelines to help us when feeding our garden birds during the festive season.
If you are tempted to put out cooking fat from the Christmas roast, the advice given is not to. The cooled fat mixed with roasted meat juices can easily smear onto birds’ feathers and interfere with their waterproofing and insulation. In addition, fat from roasting tins can quickly go rancid if left in a warm kitchen before being put outside. This forms the ideal breeding ground for salmonella and other food poisoning bacteria which can be fatal.
Birds need to keep their feathers clean and dry if they are to survive the cold winter weather, but a layer of grease would make this virtually impossible. They also need high-energy food to keep themselves warm during winter and with insects and natural food sources in short supply, birds will happily polish off leftover Christmas cake or biscuit crumbs, but no cooked turkey fat or anything too salty.
RSPB Wildlife Advisor Katie Nethercoat says: “Many people wrongly believe that leaving cooked turkey fat outside is beneficial for birds, but in fact, it can have disastrous effects. The consistency of the fat makes it prone to smearing, which is detrimental for birds’ feathers, along with the fat providing perfect conditions for breeding bacteria. Only pure fats such as lard and suet should be used to make homemade fat balls which will give birds’ the energy and nutrients to survive the cold winter months.”
“Putting out some of the recommended festive treats will encourage birds such as blackbirds, robins and wrens, as well as some of our winter visitors such as fieldfare and redwing, into the garden just in time for the Big Garden Birdwatch in January.”
If you’d like to make your own Christmas cake for the birds, the RSPB suggests mixing birdseed, nuts and raisins together with lard, squashing it around a pinecone, then hanging it with string from a tree.