Grease is the word - but not for the birds

Monday 19 December 2016

Grease is the word - but not for birds

The RSPB is reminding Christmas dinner chefs not to put the cooking fat from their festive roast out for garden birds as the greasy mixture can damage their feathers.

Christmas is a time for feasting and fattening up, not least for birds. In winter, they need high-energy food to keep themselves warm. With insects and natural food sources in short supply, laying on a festive spread for your feathered neighbours is a great idea. But, as with any dinner guest, it's essential to adhere to their dietary requirements. Birds will happily polish off leftover Christmas cake or crumbs of biscuit and mince pie, but cooked turkey fat and anything too salty can be dangerous.

Cooled fat mixed with roasted meat juices can easily smear onto birds' feathers and interfere with their waterproofing and insulation. Birds need to keep their feathers clean and dry if they are to survive the cold winter weather, but a layer of grease would make this virtually impossible.

In addition, fat from roasting tins can quickly go rancid if it's left in a warm kitchen before being put outside. This forms the ideal breeding ground for salmonella and other food poisoning bacteria and, just like people, this can be fatal to birds.

RSPB Wildlife Advisor Charlotte Ambrose says: "Many people wrongly believe that leaving cooked turkey fat outside is beneficial for birds, but in fact it can have disastrous effects. Only pure fats such as lard and suet should be used to make homemade fat balls which will give birds' the energy and nutrients to survive the cold winter months."

"Putting out some of the recommended festive treats will encourage birds such as blackbirds, robins and wrens into the garden just in time for the Big Garden Birdwatch in January."

If you'd like to treat your garden birds to their own Christmas cake, the RSPB suggests mixing bird seed, nuts and raisins together with lard, squashing it in and around a pinecone, then hanging it with string from a suitable tree.


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Editor's notes:

1. The RSPB is the UK's largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds The Lodge, Sandy, Beds SG19 2DL

Press office telephone: 01767 681577

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity. In England and Wales, no: 207076. In Scotland, no: SC037654.

Last Updated: Tuesday 28 August 2018

Tagged with: Country: England Topic: Birds and wildlife