Cold Willow Tit
As the autumn leaves start to fall and the weather is starting to turn colder, one thing we must all remember to do is give a little extra help to our songbirds this winter.
This is the hardest time of year for our feathered friends, natural food sources are in short supply and, with it being cold, they need extra food to keep their energy levels up to stay warm.
This is where you can help; follow these few simple tips and you will also be able to enjoy watching the birds in your garden this winter.
Winter feeding frenzy
From fat balls to pastry there are plenty of foods that birds love to eat. Below is a few helpful hints and tips to remember when feeding your birds
Fat balls, Fat cakes & Flutter Butter are extremely popular in the winter months. They can contain lard or beef suet giving our feather friends plenty of energy in the cold months. These can be purchased from most garden centres or large stores or why not try making your own at home, an activity children thoroughly enjoy. However please do not use chicken, turkey or vegetable fat, these can be transferred onto the birds feathers during preening, clogging feather and hindering flight.
Our birds love peanuts also but please do buy peanuts especially for birds, other sources may not have been checked for aflatoxin and could be harmful to the birds. We would also recommend chopped nuts instead of whole, so they can’t get stuck in their throats.
Seed mixes are another popular hit in our gardens, however we would recommend you avoid the cheaper versions which contain larger seeds such as barley, lentils and or split peas, which are only really eaten by bigger birds such as pigeons.
Sunflower hearts & seeds are another firm favourite but did you know the black sunflower seed is better than a stripy one? The black seed has a higher fat content so are much better for our birds. Sunflower hearts don’t have husks that some seeds have. This means birds use less energy as de-husking will not be required and there will be less waste (and mess) at your feeding station.
Our birds also love a range of fresh and dried fruit (please soak your dried fruit fist to avoid it expanding in the bird's tummy). Raisins, apples, bananas are a favourite but do be aware putting out sultanas if you have a dog as they can be harmful to them.
Other food usually found in your kitchen can be uncooked porridge oats, bacon rind, small amounts of cake or biscuit crumbs (Robins love a bit of Christmas cake), cooked unsalted rice, small amounts of mild grated cheese and unsalted dry breakfast cereal e.g. Cheerios’ or corn flakes.
DO NOT FEED THEM….
Bread, especially white bread, is not a high quality food for them and will not give them the energy they need to survive; but will make them feel full so no longer look for quality food.
Milk can upset their tummies and make them very poorly as can mouldy or stale food.
Salty food can dehydrate them and desiccated coconut can swell in birds’ stomachs.
For more information please visit our feed the birds page, also download “which birds like to eat what and how” for information on which birds like which food and what types of feeders they like.
If you would like to purchase some food please visit the Birds and Bees website,www.birdsandbees.co.uk. They are offering a 5% DISCOUNT off all their products exclusive to SBS members (please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive your discount code), don't forget to use Easyfundraising when ordering you can raise up to 2.5% for SBS at the same time.
The birds love Flutter Butter
Picture by Catherine Webster
Pick a time each day you will be free to top up those feeders, then your birds won’t waste precious energy visiting and hunting for food in your garden. This can be any time during the day, just try and keep it at roughly the same time.
Announcing the arrival of flutter butter
By Catherine Webster
Don't use the plastic net when hanging food
The plastic nets around fat balls etc., are very dangerous for our birds, they can get tangled up in them so make sure never to hang them out with the plastic nets on. Most garden centres offer wire cages at little cost or you can click here to see what we recommend
Use wire cages which are much safer
By Catherine Webster
Dunnock enjoying ground feeder
By Catherine Webster
Certain birds such as Blackbirds, Robins & Dunnocks prefer to feed from the ground, if you don’t wish to scatter food on the ground a small dish will be sufficient. Fill with ripe fruit such as apples or raisins, songbird mixes, meal worms etc. A great way of keeping these vulnerable ground feeding birds safe from predators such as free-roaming domestic cats, grey squirrels and sparrowhawks, is to put an old dog carrying cage over the scattered food, trays or dishes. This allows the smaller birds to get in and at the food while keeping predators, scavengers and larger competitor birds like crows, magpies, jackdaws and pigeons out.
Click here to view Birds & Bees Ground Feeders
Old dog cage used as a ground feeder to protect our birds from predators
By Catherine Webster
Song Thrush enjoying bird bath on a cold day
When it freezes, birds struggle to find a natural source of water as ponds & puddles may be frozen over. Keeping your bird baths, ponds or even a water bowl clean and frost free will really help them. To stop them freezing over add a clean ball (eg golf or ping pong ball) or wobbly rock to the water.
Grey Squirrel on Bird feeder
In the cold weather the predators will need to eat extra to keep warm as well. There are a few things you can do to avoid them snacking on your songbirds.Place bells on cats' collars so that they can alert the birds when they are too close. Predator proof feeding stations are also very helpful.
Links below for the predator proof feeders as pictured on the right
Predator Proof Peanut Feeder
Predator Proof Seed Feeder
Our director ordered these from the Birds & Bees website for his garden. Wonderful example of predator proof feeders
For more information please visit our Feed The Birds Page
To find out which types of feeders there are, and where to place them, please visit our Types of Feeders Page
All birds need water click here
to find the best ways to give them some water.
to download our 'Feed the Birds' guide to find out which birds like what food and how they like to eat them.
SongBird Survival is a charity commissioning research into the decline of Britain’s songbirds. With your support and membership we hope to reverse their decline.
Click here to find out more……