10 Jan 2010

Feed the birds!

These extreme wintry conditions are pushing our wildlife to the brink of a crisis - so says the RSPB - and indeed this morning I found a wren lying in the snow. I am sure most folk will be putting some stuff out but if not please spare a few moments....

Photos: local views taken in my walk back from shops yesterday

The RSPB is organizing emergency feeding of several threatened birds at locations across the UK - this direct action includes help for bitterns and cirl buntings – all threatened species vulnerable to the impacts of extreme cold. Folk are being asked not to disturb flocks of wetland birds, including ducks, geese, swans and wading birds, as this causes these birds to expend energy they cannot replace - pushing them to the brink.

"With the icy weather predicted to last at least another week, this winter could be the single greatest wildlife killer of the new millennium...It is likely that the legacy of this hard winter will be seen in bird populations for many years to come."
Dr Mark Avery, RSPB’s Conservation Director
Some red list birds use gardens regularly in winter, including house sparrow, starling and song thrush. This icy weather will not doubt bring others to our gardens as food is covered and insects are not around.

It is crucial birds eat enough to build and maintain adequate fat supplies to store on the body and ‘burn’ for energy. There is often a flurry of activity first thing in the morning when birds replenish energy lost overnight - and last thing in the afternoon to prepare for the long night ahead. The food and water we provide can be the difference between life and death in many cases.

Here's more from the RSPB:

Natural food is covered in snow and ice and 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. During cold snaps like this current one, birds are more likely to come into our gardens to seek sanctuary. People can help improve birds’ chances of survival through these cold periods by providing food like meal worms, fatballs, crushed peanuts, dried fruit and seeds and grain. They could also put out leftovers like grated cheese, porridge oats, soft fruit, unsalted bacon, cooked rice and pasta and the insides of cooked potatoes.

Water is also vital for both drinking and bathing and bird baths can be kept from freezing over using small floating items like twigs or ping pong balls.

  1. Put out feed regularly, especially in severe weather. Set up a bird table and use high calorie seed mixes. This can also be used to put out kitchen scraps such as animal fats, grated cheese and porridge oats
  2. Put out hanging feeders for black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, sunflower-rich mixes or unsalted peanuts
  3. Ensure a supply of fresh water every day. If it is very cold use tepid water but DO NOT use any antifreeze products
  4. Put out fruit, such as apples and pears, for blackbirds, song thrushes and other members of the thrush family
  5. Food bars or fat hung up or rubbed into the bark of trees is a great help for treecreepers, goldcrests and many other species
  6. Put up nest boxes to provide roost sites for the smaller birds. They will then be used for breeding later in the year.
Of course this weather is not the only threat to wildlife - other key threats include grubbing of hedgerows, pesticides, and cats.


Rachel Cotterill said...

Our bird feeder is a hive of activity in this weather - we always see them queueing up on the surrounding bushes.

Oh, and we had a fox in the snow, too (photos)

Philip Booth said...

Yes go to link above - great pics of fox although sadly looks like s/he has mange - parasitic mites - see:

Russ said...

I'm sure there was a guy from the RSPB, the other week, who said not to put out things like seed mixed with turkey fat, as the fat could become a breeding ground to bacteria, or somesuch..

I just put out some bread; there shouldn't be anything wrong with that...I wouldn't have thought.

Plus wouldn't creepers still be able to feed on trees, as the snow is on the ground more than the trees?

Russ said...

Oh, yes, I have seen creepers hopping around the trees...they seemed happy enough..

Philip Booth said...

I have just been sent this link - don't put out turkey fat: