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Last modified: 02 February 2012
Image: Graham Catley
After weeks of calls reporting wildlife enjoying ‘balmy’ weather, the RSPB is now braced for more traditional winter enquiries and is urging the public to provide food, water and shelter for garden birds.
With winter finally arriving in the UK this week, the wildlife charity is warning that wild birds will struggle to find their natural food supplies under frost and snow. As temperatures drop below freezing, birds will come to our gardens to find extra meals.
RSPB’s Samantha Stokes says; “Although it has come late this season, the sudden drop in temperatures will be a huge shock to birds. They become more vulnerable in the cold and are likely to appear in higher numbers in our gardens over the next few days. The best way you can help is by putting out food and water.”
Birds need to eat enough food to fuel their small bodies, and especially to keep warm. High energy foods like worms are out of reach when the ground becomes too hard to probe, and seeds and berries become inaccessible with severe weather.
To ease the challenges for birds, people can provide food, water and shelter.
The RSPB suggests 5 top tips to make our gardens safe places to dine.
1. Regularly put out quality food, especially in severe weather. The RSPB recommends food that is high in calories such as sunflower hearts and suet pellets. You can put them in a hanging feeder or scatter a small amount on the ground.
2. Ensure a fresh supply of water every day for drinking and bathing. To prevent freezing, you can try floating small twigs or ping pong balls in it. Never use anti-freeze products or salt as they are toxic to birds.
3. Set up a bird table where birds can eat safely. This can be used to put out kitchen scraps such as grated cheese, fruit, porridge oats, unsalted bacon and insides of cooked potatoes.
4. Put up nest boxes. Small birds will roost in them in cold weather. Other birds may use them to nest in as the weather warms up again.
5. Keep everything clean! Remember to clean your ‘feeding station’ regularly outside, and wash your hands before and after preparing meals for birds. Birds are sensitive all year round to infection and disease.
Samantha adds; “If you offer birds a warm welcome in your garden, who knows what you might see.
“Siskins, waxwings, redwings and fieldfares are all more likely to appear in gardens as the temperatures drop. It’s fun to watch how the new arrivals fit in and work out who likes what food best.
“Please remember to put out water too, it just makes their lives that little bit easier.”
More information about helping garden wildlife can be found at www.rspb.org.uk/advice
For a range of bird food and bird care accessories visit www.rspbshop.co.uk