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Berry good year - but don't be fooled

Last modified: 11 October 2013

Fieldfares eating hawthorn berries

Image: Nigel Blake

Despite it being a bumper year for berries, the RSPB is asking people to carry on putting out food for garden birds because some of the fruits aren’t yet ripe enough to eat. 

The charity is warning people not to think that the mild weather and fruit-filled shrubs mean garden birds will be able to get enough natural food to sustain them. And with the Met Office warning this week of dropping temperatures and widespread frost by Friday, putting out extra food for the birds in your garden will become even more important as the month goes on. 

Ian Hayward, from the RSPB’s wildlife enquiries team, said: “Many people think that you don’t need to put out food for birds during mild weather and when there appears to be lots of berries available. 

'However, not all of the berries out now are ripe enough for birds to eat - most won’t be taken until after the first frosts and ivy berries won’t start forming until much later in winter – so it’s still important to supplement the natural food with things like seed mixes, mealworms and suitable leftovers from your kitchen. 

'A number of birds that visit our gardens at this time of year are migrants that have flown here from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to spend the winter, so they have a lot of refuelling to do!'

As well as feeding birds, the RSPB is asking people to get outside and help the wildlife in their gardens in other ways this weekend, too. 

Ian continued: 'October is a great time of year to do all sorts of jobs to give nature a home in your outside space. You can plant bulbs ready to attract bees and other insects next summer; build or buy a hedgehog shelter, also known as a 'Hogitat', ready for them to hibernate in; dig a pond or tidy up your existing one; or put up nest boxes in time for next spring.'

But for those who don’t fancy getting a bit of hard work this weekend, there’s a good excuse. 'Holding off on pruning your hedges is a great way of helping wildlife without actually having to do anything. Leaving them until around February next year means the berries will be able to be eaten throughout the winter.'

'Holding off on pruning your hedges is a great way of helping wildlife without actually having to do anything'

The RSPB has launched a campaign to help tackle the crisis facing the UK's threatened wildlife. Giving Nature a Home is urging the nation to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces. The charity hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature. 

The launch of the campaign comes after 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the groundbreaking State of Nature report revealing 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied have declined over recent decades. 

Many garden favourites were among the creatures shown to be in serious trouble including starlings, hedgehogs, some butterflies and ladybirds. All are in danger of further declines unless more is done to provide better habitats.  

The Giving Nature a Home website gives everyone access to expert advice about helping nature in any outside space – whether it’s a huge garden or a small planting tub on balcony. By visiting the site people can get their free Giving Nature a Home starter guide, pledge support by telling us what you plan to do, and share pictures, tips and ideas with others. You can also find out more about what the RSPB is doing to give nature a home in the wider countryside. 

The RSPB sells a range of products that can help you Give Nature a Home. From Hogitats to nestboxes, feeders to fat balls, and bug hotels to plant pots. All of the profit helps save birds and wildlife.

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.