Don’t cause bird fat-alities this Christmas

Jasmine Granton

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) sitting on gardener's plant pot, Devon

The RSPB is urging you to share the Christmas cheer and treat your garden birds to a feast this winter, but to avoid serving up dangerous leftovers from your Christmas roasting tin.

Making your garden a wildlife haven and putting out food and water throughout the winter months is essential for birds’ survival. However, some of your best intentions may be harmful if you’re planning on sharing your Christmas leftovers. Although it might be tempting to use the meat fat from the roasting tin you cooked your Christmas turkey in, the blend of meat fat and juices can be dangerous for birds for several reasons, and in some situations can be fatal. 

The fat found in your roasting tin remains soft even when cooled and will stick to birds’ feathers having catastrophic effect on their natural protection against the elements. A layer of grease would make it virtually impossible for birds to keep their feathers clean and dry, which is essential in the cold winter months.

Sticky feathers isn’t the only consequence of sharing your Christmas lunch leftovers. Fatty leftovers become rancid when left with other meat juices in a warm kitchen, forming an ideal breeding ground for salmonella and other food poisoning bacteria, which could prove fatal to birds, wildlife and even your own pets.

Although the RSPB does not recommend leftover meat fats, the nature charity is urging you to put on a Christmas spread for your garden birds as food at this time of year can save lives. 

RSPB Wildlife Advisor, Claire Thomas said: “As you finish your Christmas lunch surrounded by family and friends, your thoughts may turn to the wildlife in your garden and the leftovers in the kitchen. Although it may feel generous to share your Christmas feast, be mindful not to ‘kill with kindness’ as fat from meats such as turkey have a completely different texture to the safer alternatives of lard and suet and can be fatal to birds.

“Bird seed table mix, suet balls and other nibbles are great at providing birds with the vital energy and nutrients that are so important for them throughout winter. If you do find yourself with a little extra time over the holidays and want to cook up a festive feast for your garden birds from scratch, then the RSPB’s website has a selection of recipes you can follow and a video on to make suet cakes.”

Bird friendly fat balls and other fat-based food bars are excellent winter food and are available at the RSPB online shop. Or for recipes and more ideas of what to feed your garden birds, visit the RSPB website. 

Christmas isn’t the only time that garden birds need your help but providing shelter and a winter feast will improve the amount of sightings for Bird Garden Birdwatch 2018. Registration is open now so sign up and take a closer look at the wildlife on your doorstep. To get involved simply pick an hour over the weekend and tell us what you see.

For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:

Jasmine Granton, Assistant Media Officer: 01767 693129 /

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Country: UK Topic: Birds and wildlife