There are 592 species of birds native to the British Isles, and gardens are an important habitat for some of these birds, not just for food and shelter, but also for rearing their families. The most likely visitors to your garden will be starlings, house sparrows, blackbirds, blue and great tits, robins, greenfinches and collared doves. It is great fun to spot the different varieties of birds that might visit, and to observe their fascinating behaviour and colours.
As winter sets in, it’s important to provide birds with supplementary food, as it is a rich source of the protein and vitamins that adult and young birds need. By feeding birds safely and responsibly, you will be playing an important role in helping birds overcome periods of food shortage, and enabling them to survive severe winter weather.
Attract birds by providing them with seed mixes and food bars. A good seed mix contains plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds and peanut granules.
Fat balls or other fat-based food bars are excellent winter food. If they are sold in nylon mesh bags, always remove these, as the soft mesh can trap and injure birds.
HOW TO FEED
Bird tables are suitable for most species of bird, as is a tray with a raised rim that allows for water drainage and easy cleaning. Nut feeders, made with a steel mesh, are the only safe way of offering nuts to wild birds. The mesh size needs to be large enough to prevent beak damage and small enough to prevent large pieces of nut from being removed. Seed feeders – tube like transparent containers with holes through which the bird can access the food – are ideal for seed mixes, and great for attracting smaller birds.
- Milk – A bird’s gut cannot digest this, and it can cause illness and possible death.
- Mouldy food – some types of mould can cause respiratory infections in birds.
- Dry Biscuits – Birds can choke on large pieces of dry biscuit. A dog biscuit if OK if it has been soaked in water, but be wary of it drying out in the sun.
- Cooking Fat – Fat from roasting tins or dishes smears easily and can harm bird feathers. Cooking fat is a breeding ground for bacteria and can be overly salty; both dangerous for a bird’s health.
Make your own bird cake
Pour melted fat (suet or lard) onto a mixture of ingredients such as seeds, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal, cheese and cake. Use approx one-third fat to two-thirds mixture. Stir well and allow it to set in a container of your choice such as an empty coconut shell or plastic cup.