There is great merit in feeding our Garden Birds throughout the winter months as well as being a rewarding and enjoyable hobby in the midst of chilly winter weather, our garden birds will provide you with colourful entertainment throughout the day as well as a feel good factor in knowing that you are helping to secure the survival of many of our now dwindling species of native garden birds. It is well documented that birds that receive extra food over the winter months lay their eggs earlier and produce more fledglings in the spring.
Putting out food in winter probably saves the lives of up to a million birds a year. The RSPB advises making sure that bird feed is available early in the morning and late afternoon especially during winter and autumn. At these times in particular, birds need a quick energy boost. Small birds such as blue tits require high energy (high fat) foods during the cold winter weather; they must eat a quarter of their body weight in food each day so high protein foods and fat are needed.
Fat balls are excellent winter food, if they are bought in nylon mesh bags always remove the bag before putting the fat ball out as the soft mesh can trap and injure birds. You can make your own fat balls by pouring melted fat (suet or Lard) onto a mixture of ingredients such as seeds, nuts dried fruit and oatmeal. Use about one-third fat to two-thirds mixture. Stir well in a bowl and allow it to set in a container of your choice. Other foods to offer in winter are Black Sunflower seeds, Niger seeds and hulled peanuts ensuring that they are from a reputable dealer to guarantee freedom from aflatoxin.
Ideally winter birdfeeders should be placed in sheltered locations, closer to the house will be effective and will keep the birds visible for indoor bird watching. It will also help if feeders are placed near natural protective cover such as hedges or small garden trees to offer birds safety from predators whilst feeding.
As the bird table will be very busy in winter it is important that your feeding stations are kept clean. All old or stale food should be removed daily. Clean tables and bird feeders regularly and often- salmonella can spread amongst your garden visitors. Use boiling water or buy a specialised cleaning product that will not harm you, the birds or wildlife such as Vetark Ark-klens.
A clean Water supply is also important in the winter months. Bird baths should be kept clean and ice free. Another recommended product from Vetark is CitroSan which is a natural biocide extracted from oranges. It is palatable but inhibites bacterial and protozoal contamination of bird baths whilst at the same time stimulates the birds natural immunity.
Looking after our garden birds is an easy, worthwhile and very rewarding hobby.