Feeding birds through the winter is easy to understand, food can be scarce. Birds may need a lot of help through a harsh winter, or one of the odd fluctuating winters of recent years. As Winter closes the birds activity levels are high, they begin singing in January and gathering nesting materials and staking out territories for nesting to begin as Spring arrives in March.
Feeding in this period is crucial, our wild birds have become very dependent on supplementary feeding through the winter, scraps, fruit and seed mixes are very popular at this time. The exact reasons aren’t clear but some birds have seen a serious decline in the last 25 years – the songthrush is said to have fallen by 50% and the starling, dunnock and blackbird by 25%. Anything that we can do must help!
Cock birds may expend lot of energy and time defending territories by April and young birds are being pushed hard filling hungry mouths. Supplies of the necessary insects, berries and grubs can be rather thin after the winter we have just had and so supplementary feeding from the birdtable is very valuable.
What do birds actually like? The choice of foods for wildbirds is important, although garden birds will accept a wide range the most popular mixes include black sunflower and peanuts (which must be tested for aflatoxin by the suppliers). Woodpeckers and tits enjoy peanuts, goldfinches like black niger/nyjer and blackbirds and blackcaps are said to like apple. Starlings and many other species enjoy fat balls. Mealworms are a great treat enjoyed by blackbirds, robins and wagtails. But providing a good range of high quality seeds, fat balls and table snacks is sure to bring a range of bird species. Wheat and oats will attract pigeons which are not everyones cup of tea!
Whilst feeding of gardenbirds is important to them we need to be cautious to avoid spreading disease through them at feeders. In the spring when birds are under stress, rushing around feeding youngsters etc. They and their young are susceptible to disease and we see a lot of problems at this time of year with Salmonella and Trichomonas in some of the finches, especially greenfinches and chaffinches.
Many of these problems are spread at the bird table if the table hygiene is poor, or via contaminated water bowls. If we are going to attract birds to food and drink, then it must be suitable and safe. Otherwise we are simply contributing to the decline, rather than than helping to counter it.
Good hygiene is vital and Vetark is already providing Ark-Klens to minimise disease transmission. Ark-Klens is safe for the birds and for the user, it is effective against major pathogens (now tested effective against flu virus), and is non-scented so that birds are not put off.
A vital important aspect of disease control is maximising immunity. Vetarks newest products - Sprinkle Support and CitroSan aim to maximise the birds natural immune response at times when they are under stress such as breeding or overwintering. Sprinkle Support is a palatable bird food supplement with friendly probiotic bacteria, prebiotic soluble fibre and vitamins to maximise bird health. As its name suggests it is sprinkled on the food.
CitroSan is a natural biocide extracted from oranges. It is palatable but inhibits bacterial and protozoal contamination of bird baths, whilst at the same time again like Sprinkle Support stimulates natural immunity.