NATURE NOTES - The perfect buffet for birds

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IT’S minus 2C here at Haigh this morning and, with more sub zero temperatures and snow flurries forecast in the coming week, it’s looking like we may have a proper winter in the making!

It’s during these cold spells that a little effort in feeding the birds really does make a difference and don’t forget access to drinking water is just as important for our feathered friends!

To survive the cold, small birds such as blue tits must eat a quarter of their body weight in food each day so high protein foods and fat are needed.

Robins need to eat almost half their body weight every day to survive the winter and a couple of days of bitter cold, with ice-covered ground, are enough to kill many birds.

Our bird feeders in the garden are packed with birds and you don’t need to buy expensive ‘wild bird food’ either – anything is better than nothing as they say and leftovers from your Sunday Roast would make a welcome addition to the birds’ lunch.

Here are some ideas I’ve mentioned before but well worth mentioning again –

Fat. Only from unsalted cuts of meat, i.e. not from a ham. Put it out in a large piece for the little birds to pick at, and be sure to anchor it down to be sure that a large bird doesn’t make off with it. Nail it down if necessary.

Roast potatoes. Once they’re cool, cut them open for birds to enjoy the fluffy insides.

Vegetables. Cold Brussels sprouts, carrots and parsnips are popular. Don’t put out more than what can be eaten in one day or you may attract rats.

Fruit. Excess or bruised apples, pears or other fruit. Cut up and leave out.

Pastry. Cooked or uncooked are both good bird food, especially if made with real fats.

Cheese. Small pieces or grated hard cheese, but nothing too strong and no blue cheese.

Dried fruit. Raisins, sultanas and currants are all good.

Biscuits and cakes. Stale cake and crumbs from the bottom of the biscuit tin are all full of fat and good for getting birds through the winter.

Putting food out in winter probably saves the lives of up to a million garden birds a year.

The RSPB and British Trust for Ornithology both suggest that you feed birds all year round, but some do have particular seasonal needs.

This morning Tanith sat looking at what birds were using the garden feeders and within an hour she’d seen eight species – long tailed, blue, coal and great tits were the most numerous as you’d expect.

Blackbird, robin, magpie and nuthatch were also visitors too.

Make sure that bird feed is available early in the morning and late at night, especially during winter and autumn.

At these times in particular, birds need a quick energy boost.

In spring, live food is ideal for birds with chicks, even those that normally feed on seeds, such as finches and siskins. Buy mealworms, for example, to put out on a tray feeder.

Clean feeders regularly and often — salmonella can spread amongst your garden visitors.

Use boiling water or buy specialised cleaning products that don’t harm wildlife. It’s particularly important to remove old or stale food from a seed tray.