Nature Conservation Lewisham

Get involved in Lewisham's parks and nature reserves

Feed the birds this winter

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Winter seems to be on its way, the scarf and gloves are coming out and your faithful bloggers have finally relented and put the heating on.  Although the sun is bright and the air crisp – in fact a perfect Autumnal day – there is the feeling that winter is here, just around the corner.  At this time of year a number of our garden wildlife struggle, but there are ways in which you can help.

During the winter feeding birds will benefit them the most.  This is because, when the temperatures fall below freezing, our birds struggle to find the food they need to survive the winter. If you don’t do it already, maybe now ids a good time to start, you will be in good company!  Feeding birds in the garden is a popular activity, the RSPB states that over half of adults in the UK feed birds in their garden, which is a lot of extra help for the birds! 

© Vlado

Natural food is covered in snow and ice and may be impossible to get to. Water birds may be forced to leave iced-over lakes and rivers. The ground becomes too hard for birds like thrushes and lapwings to probe, and natural food like berries, acorns and seeds is buried.

© Simon Howden

During the winter you should put out food and water on a regular basis. In severe weather, feed twice daily if you can: in the morning and in the early afternoon.  If you can, set up a bird table and use high calorie seed mixes. This can also be used to put out kitchen scraps such as uncooked animal fats, grated cheese and porridge oats. If it is very cold use tepid, water but DO NOT use any antifreeze products.  Birds require high energy (high fat) foods during the cold winter weather to maintain their fat reserves to survive the frosty nights.

© Simon Howden

Always adjust the quantity given to the demand, and never allow uneaten foods to accumulate around the feeders. Once you establish a feeding routine, try not to change it as the birds will become used to it and time their visits to your garden accordingly.

If you are lucky, like this video poster in the North York Moors, in November 2010 – you will get all sorts of wonderful birds visiting you garden!

However, REMEMBER, although winter feeding benefits birds most, food shortages can occur at any time of the year. By feeding the birds year round, you’ll give them a better chance to survive the periods of food shortage whenever they may occur.  If you provide both natural and additional food, your garden will be visited year-round by lots of different birds. You could also take part the RSPB’s Homes for Wildlife scheme where you will get lots of advice  to make your garden into a wildlife haven.

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2 thoughts on “Feed the birds this winter

  1. Thank you for you comments on this post. The information was taken from the RSPB website. This states that although you should never put cooked porridge oats out for the birds because they can become glutinous and could harden around a bird’s beak, as you point out, uncooked porridge oats are readily taken by a number of birds.

    You also make a good point about bird tables, however, if people are prepared to clean them regularly then there is no harm in using them. People should also be aware not to allow food to accumulate and clear off debris every time they put out new food.

  2. Feed the Birds this Winter… Do not ever give birds ‘porridge’. It is glutinous and if wet can become stuck around a birds beak and suffocate them. Do not use a bird table unless you are prepared to scrub it clean at least weekly as the bacteria it accumulates can kill birds. Hang food from bare branches in the same way that natural food would grow. Contary to some beliefs bread is good for birds. The levels of chemicals maintained to be harmful maintain the birds resistance to pollution. Never use mouldy bread as it can kill birds.
    How about somebody who knows what they are talking about writing some of these articles???

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