Author Jess Price
This time last year the heavy snow fall we experienced in December forced wildlife into gardens looking for food. This year exceptionally mild weather has meant there is still plenty of natural food available in the wider countryside and our usual garden visitors have been much more elusive.
Once the temperature drops and the food runs out birds will come back to gardens looking for some extra help to keep warm.
Some people have questioned whether feeding garden birds is a good thing to do. They argue that it artificially maintains bird populations and that the food that we provide is not part of their natural diet and is bad for them. That said both the RSPB and the British Trust for Ornithology now approve feeding birds all year round. Most people believe that feeding garden birds does more good than harm, especially during winter when nutritious food is much harder to come by.
Many small birds die of cold over the winter months. By putting out a little extra food you can really help them out and you get the added bonus of being able to enjoy watching these amazing animals close up and personal.
Top tips for feeding birds this winter:
- Donít give too much. Amounts provided should allow for rapid turnover to reduce the chance of food becoming mouldy or contaminated.
- Natural foods are best but in cold weather good leftovers with a high fat content such as bacon rind, grated cheese, cooked rice and pasta will be beneficial.
- Donít put out salted nuts, desiccated coconut, highly spiced food or very dry bread.
- Food that has been contaminated with droppings and saliva can be a reservoir for some diseases that affect birds so clean your bird feeder, table and bath regularly with boiling water and disinfectant.
- Always wear gloves when cleaning your feeders. Brushes and equipment used for cleaning bird feeders should not be used for other purposes and should be kept and used outside.
- Many birds die in cold weather due to dehydration as water in bird baths freeze. Remember to put out fresh water everyday and never use any chemicals to de-ice your bird bath
- Supplementary feeding can never provide all the natural proteins and vitamins that birds need so try to also include natural food sources in your garden. Why not plant a native hedgerow or a couple of fruit trees? Let your plants go to seed and donít prune shrubs until late in winter.
Do you know any other good bird feeding tips? We'd love to hear them!
Jess Price, Sussex Wildlife Trustís WildCall Officer talks about the best way to feed & look after your garden birds this winter on BBC Radio Sussex.
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