Seeds of sur­vival for the birds

Feed­ers and ta­bles with high- en­ergy foods

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Hobson’s Choice -

How­long is it since you filled your bird feeder or re­plen­ished the water in your bird­bath? If you haven’t done it for a while, there’s no time like the present.

“The sud­den drop in tem­per­a­tures across the UK will have been a big shock to birds’ sys­tems af­ter spend­ing the past cou­ple of months with few wor­ries in termsof­foo­davail­abil­ity,” says Richard James, RSPB wildlife ad­viser.

“Thanks to the re­cent mild weather, many nat­u­ral food sources have been read­ily avail­able and water has been easy to come by. Now the snow and ice are here birds will need all the help they can get to sur­vive the win­ter.”

How­ever, the range of bird seeds, fat balls and other so- called bird- friendly items can leave gar­den­ers baf­fled as to what’s best for our feath­ered friends.

The RSPB sug­gests calo­ri­erich foods such as mixed seed, ny­jer seed, fat­balls, suet sprin­kles, sun­flower seed and good qual­ity peanuts, as well as kitchen scraps such as mild grated cheese, rice and por­ridge oats.

Small seeds, such as mil­let, at­tract mostly house spar­rows, dun­nocks, finches, reed buntings and col­lared doves, while flaked maize is taken read­ily by black­birds.

Tits and­green­finch­es­favour peanuts and sun­flower seeds. Mixes that con­tain chunks or whole nuts are suit­able for win­ter feed­ing only.

Pin­head oat­meal is ex­cel­lent for many birds. Wheat and bar­ley grains are of­ten in­cluded in seed mix­tures, but they are re- ally only suit­able for pi­geons, doves and pheas­ants, which feed on the ground and rapidly in­crease in num­bers, fre­quently de­ter­ring the smaller species.

Don’t feed the birds cooked fat from roast­ing tins and dishes, be­cause the fat may have blended with meat juices which leaves amix­ture­prone­tosmear­ing, which is not good for the birds’ feath­ers, an­disabreed­ing ground for bac­te­ria, the char­ity warns.

Polyun­sat­u­rat­ed­mar­garines and veg­etable oils are also un­suit­able as birds need high lev­els of sat­u­rated fat to re­tain the high en­ergy to keep warm, and soft fats can be smeared on to feath­ers, de­stroy­ing the wa­ter­proof­ing qual­i­ties.

Lard and beef suet on their own are fine as they re- so­lid­ify af­ter warm­ing and are not as prone to bac­te­ria breed­ing be- cause they are pure fat.

If you want to give the birds co­conut, only give them the fresh stuff in the shell, rins­ing out any sweet co­conut water be­fore hang­ing it out, to stop black mildew emerg­ing. Des­ic­cated co­conut should never beusedas it can swell in­side the bird, with fa­tal con­se­quences.

Cooked rice with­out added salt can be ben­e­fi­cial to birds dur­ing se­vere win­ter weather, while un­cooked por­ridge oats are fine for many bird species. You can also put out small quan­ti­ties of dry break­fast ce­real .

In freez­ing con­di­tions birds be­comem­o­re­de­pen­den­ton­wa­ter pro­vided in gar­dens, since many sources are frozen over.

Put out enough food and you may see a wider va­ri­ety of vis­i­tors dur­ing the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird­watch ( Jan 26/ 27), the world’s big­gest wildlife sur­vey.

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