Long-tailed Tits huddled together | The RSPB | British Birds

RSPB members' questions

As a thank you to you, the RSPB members who continue to support us, we've asked our staff experts to answer five of your most commonly asked questions.

A bird has become tame and now waits for food. Are we doing any harm giving him food regularly?

Sian from supporter relations tackles a question about a friendly garden bird

Hi, my name is Sian and I work for the RSPB Wildlife Enquiries Team.
The question I'll be answering today is about what to do when the blackbird you feed in your garden becomes very tame and whether he'll become dependent on this.

Firstly, it's great that you feed the birds in your garden since this can support their population throughout the year. Birds often become used to your regular feeding
pattern but we do not recommend interaction since this can alter their natural feeding behaviour. Since there's lots of food in the environment, the food you offer birds is supplementary to their diet so there's more than enough for them to feed from in the natural habitat.

To prevent the blackbird from becoming relianton you, perhaps reduce the frequency and overall amount of food you offer. This might seem like tough love but he will
not starve and it is better practice overall.

Why do the starlings abandon my garden for a couple of weeks once their fledglings become independent?

Jane from Gloucester asked about her disappearing starlings

Hi, I'm Anna Feeney, I'm a member of the PR team at the RSPB and I'm just going to quickly go over one of the great questions that came in from our supporters, which is about why starlings suddenly abandon your garden just as their fledglings are becoming independent and why they do that is they're actually going around the rest of the neighbourhood, they're trying to find out the other sources of reliable food, they're sussing out the situation and learning how to become a fully fledged independent starling. So this actually happened to us and it's really frustrating as you put all this effort into putting out wonderful food and making it a welcoming environment and then they just disappear but if you're lucky and keep putting out food, the starlings will remember where they started and they'll actually come back home and you'll be lucky enough to get the starlings back again, which is what happened to me just a few days ago.

Should I still be putting out fat balls during the bird breeding season?

Lorna Dow, the warden for RSPB Loch of Strathbeg, talks about the merits and risks behind putting out fat for birds in summer

Hi, yes it's still fine to feed fat balls through in summer. So, you can see that we still have some out at Strathbeg here. Fat balls are normally made of a mixture of things
like beef fat, wheat flour, seeds, maybe something like mealworms as well and all those things are fine, they're quite nutritious actually for chicks. So, not to worry and it's probably supplementary anyway. I read something that bluetits with a nest and maybe ten chicks need around a thousand pieces of food a day for them, so it's probably supplementary and they'll be feeding things like caterpillars and things as well but the fat balls will be a nice handy thing for them to get hold of.

The other thing to do is to make sure that you're not putting out home made fat balls at this time of year because the manufactured ones are specially formulated to make sure that they don't go melty in the sun, which means that they might get fat
smeared on their feathers, which you wouldn't want.

If blue tits abandon their nest and I find dead babies in there, can I clean it out?

Norman from St. Albans asked what's the best thing to do when his nest box hasn't been successful this year

Hi, I'm Ness, I'm the Science Comms Executive and I've been asked this question by one of our members: ‘If bluetits abandon their nest and I find six dead babies in there, do I have to leave them there until September or can I clean it out now?’

That's obviously not a nice thing to have to deal with and hopefully it doesn't come up very often but to give this a bit of context, we recommend not emptying nest boxes until at least September especially if there are eggs left in it, just to make sure that the parents have definitely abandoned the nest and the eggs are unlikely to hatch. But in this case it's very obvious that nothing else can be done so definitely give it a clear out.

Just make sure that you give it a clean with boiling water, don't use any pesticides and let it dry naturally and then you can put it back up again and hopefully next year we'll have a bit more success with it.

How long do jackdaws take to fledge?

Ana from the Wildlife Enquiries Team talks about how long it takes for one of our common corvids to start flying

Hi, I'm Ana and I'm on the Wildlife Enquiries Team at the RSPB.

How long do jackdaws take to fledge?

Jackdaws usually start nesting around the beginning of April and they will have one brood in a year. The females will lay around four to six eggs and then incubate these for seventeen to eighteen days. Juvenile jackdaws usually take around a month to fledge, thirty to thirty five days to be precise so don't worry if you feel like it's taking them a little while to find their feet, or wings.

Missed your previous questions?

Watch all of our responses to your questions on this YouTube playlist.