RSPB Urges Us To Look After Our Garden Birds This Winter

RSPB Urges Us To Look After Our Garden Birds This Winter

Grow Talk by Sofy Robertson

As Christmas draws nearer and nearer, our minds are undoubtedly filled with gift lists, foodspiration and party plans. Amongst all of this festive chaos, the RSPB has asked us all to spare a thought for the avian visitors to our gardens this winter and what they will be having for their Christmas dinner.

Winter is a tricky time of year for our garden birds; the days are short and the nights are cold, so they must eat a lot of food in a short amount of time to have the energy to survive until morning.

In addition to this challenge, food is also harder to come by in winter. Insects are hibernating, grubs are buried deep in the ground and snow and ice make it harder to find food.

Some birds are more well-adapted to the cold season than others; robins mainly feed on invertebrates found in the soil and they will hunt through the leaf litter and under bushes, where the ground is sheltered from frosts. Robins also benefit from proportionately large eyes which help them to see well in dark places, thus giving them an advantage as the nights draw in early. Goldcrests too have found a way to ensure that they can feed constantly through the day to build up their energy stores for night. They feed on tiny insects and spiders that live on pine trees and spend most of their time in coniferous woodlands where they can flit from tree to tree, finding their lunches on the way.

Despite some birds’ adaptations to the colder months, winter still poses a threat to their survival, especially the harsher winters we have seen recently. So whilst you make plans to host friends and families for the festive season, what can you do to ensure your feathered visitors also enjoy their stay?


Sharing your dinner

Many of your kitchen scraps and Christmas leftovers make ideal snacks for birds visiting your garden and can help them get the sustenance they need to survive. Here’s a quick guide to common leftovers that will send your birds tweeting with joy.

  • Fat – from cuts of meat (as long as it is unsalted) can be put out in large pieces. Birds such as tits will be able to remove morsels. Ensure these are well-anchored to prevent larger birds from flying away with them. Don’t forget, cooked turkey fat is not suitable for birds.
  • Roast potatoes – allow them to cool and open them up. These are now suitable for most garden birds.
  • Vegetables – cold Brussels, parsnips and carrots can be eaten by starlings and other birds . Remember not to put out more than will be eaten in one day as you may run the risk of attracting rats.
  • Fruit – apples, pears and other fruit are very popular with all thrushes, tits and starlings. These can be cut up and left on bird tables or on the ground for birds to find.
  • Pastry – seems like an odd choice but whether cooked or uncooked it is excellent for birds, especially if it has been made with real fats.
  • Cheese – yes, birds love cheese too. Hard bits are favourites with robins, dunnocks, blackbirds and song thrushes. If you have wrens in your garden, place bits of cheese under hedgerows and other areas in your garden where you have noticed them feeding. Birds aren’t fans or strong blue cheeses though, so best stick to cheddar.
  • Dried fruits – raisins, sultanas and currants are the favourites of blackbirds, song thrushes and robins.
  • Biscuits and cake – a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips for us but the high fat content in these foods are ideal for birds in winter. Don’t worry, they aren’t fussy guests so there’s no need to bake especially for them; stale cake and broken biscuits will do.


Top tips for feeding your garden birds

  • Don’t put out salty foods. Birds can’t digest salt and it will damage their nervous systems.
  • Only leave a day’s worth of food. Leaving too much can attract rats and other vermin.
  • Always follow normal hygiene procedures, ensuring you wash your hands thoroughly after filling and washing bird feeders.


Photo by Chris Child on Unsplash

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