Feeding birds in winter is very important to help our birds to survive by providing fresh food and water. Once a feeding routine is established, keep it up as birds will become used to returning to your garden and they will be a valuable ally in combatting garden pests in the coming months as well as being fun to watch. Follow these tips and you will be enjoying their company all year.
Some of you may be taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend. This is a fun activity that also helps to record the numbers of birds in our UK gardens. Last year we witnessed a decrease in starlings but an increase in wood pigeons so it will be interesting to see if the trend continues.
My Tips for Feeding and Caring for Garden Birds
- Always place feeding stations away from hedges and fences and off the ground to protect them from predators such as squirrels and cats. Don’t site them near to nest boxes as the noisy atmosphere will discourage nesting.
- Provide fresh water as well as food particularly when icy, cleaning and changing the water daily. In freezing temperatures, place a stick or ping pong ball in the water to help to prevent it from freezing over.
- Change food regularly and keep feeders clean. Only provide a small amount of food each day to prevent it from becoming mouldy.
- Take care what you feed birds. For example, never give salted nuts, spicy food or dessicated coconut which can swell inside the bird. Shop bought food is best if you are not sure but you can also use natural kitchen scraps such as cooked rice, unsalted bacon rind and grated hard cheese.
- You can make your own bird feeders using clean garden pots, pine cones or half a coconut shell filled with fat (never butter or polyunsaturated fat) with dry mealworms and seeds. Only feed fat in the winter though as it may go off in warmer weather.
- Different birds have different feeding habits as well as enjoying different food. Some such as blackbirds like to feed from the ground, whilst others such as tits prefer to feed higher up. Provide a selection to attract different birds to your garden.
- Add plants to your garden that will also feed your birds such as those with berries and edible seeds. Some wildflower mixes are particularly attractive to insects that will then be eaten by birds. Nettles will also attract insects if you have the room to leave a small area untidy. Think about sowing sunflowers in the spring and leaving the heads to dry so that they provide nutritious seeds in the autumn.
- It will soon be time to get ready for the growing season and last year’s wet weather has meant that lots of slugs are expected this spring. Birds like to eat slugs, so do not use chemicals or slug pellets to kill them. Instead, use nematodes, live microscopic creatures that will feed on slugs without harming their predators. Original Touch provides a service to deliver batches of slug killer nematodes throughout the season.
Author – Samantha Ford – 01673 866677
Samantha can be booked to give talks to groups on gardening and the history of our food by visiting www.sowwhat.co.uk