Whilst enjoying your Christmas dinner this year (or preferably long before), spare a thought for our feathered friends outdoors. With a little bit of time and effort, you can save your local birds a lot of hassle foraging on frosted ground and in bare berry bushes, and time spent inspecting frozen puddles for a source of water.
You may be one of those people that feed the birds all year round – and good for you if you do! But if not, hopefully you’ll find a tip below to suit your space or time requirements, and you can help get our nations birds off to a flying start this winter. (Please excuse the very un-funny pun).
Lets Feed the Birds!
#1 What do birds like to eat?
Birds probably aren’t as picky as you may think. They’ll eat a wide variety of foods from seeds, to cheese! It’s also important to provide as much variety as you can, as just like people, different birds have different preferences. Store bought bird seed mixes are not recommended as they’re often full of things like husks, wheat, and corn that birds will not eat, but simply toss to the ground.
Tasty bird friendly treats:
Live or dried mealworms
Cooked vegetables and potato
Apples and bananas
Mild cheese – grated or crumbled
The following should NOT be fed to birds:
Bread (unless it is wet)
Milk and dairy products
#2 Do birds need water?
Yes, they do. In fact, it can be harder for a bird to find a source of fresh water in winter, than it can for it to find food. Leave water for birds in a bird bath, a terracotta saucer, or even something as simple as a bowl hanging from a tree branch or washing line!
Change the birds’ water every day, and check that it hasn’t frozen on colder days.
#3 How should I feed the birds?
There are literally hundreds of ways that you can provide food to birds. Bird tables are a lovely idea, and many also provide a space for water. You can also buy hanging tube feeders and fat balls from most supermarkets and hardware stores. For the thrifty or creative amongst us, there are many ideas for DIY feeders on the internet. (Check out our Pinterest board for some ideas). We’ve listed a few ideas below...
Toilet Roll Tube
Take your empty toilet roll tubes; coat the outside of them in peanut butter, then roll them in a selection of seeds, millet, and peanuts. You can then hang them from string and dangle them from trees, or my personal favourite, thread them all on to the washing line!
Homemade Fat Ball
Making a fat ball at home is really easy! All you need is a selection of foods from the list above, some lard or other type of solid animal fat, string, a stick of wood (a twig or a lolly stick should do the trick) and a plastic container to use as a mould.
Fill the bottom half of an egg box with a variety of foods. (The beauty of this is you can keep them separate), then thread some string through each corner of the box so that it can be hung up. The egg box has enough space for a fair banquet, and for the birds to perch as they eat.
Cup and Saucer
Glue an old cup and saucer together. You might want to drill a hole somewhere to hang it up, or attach it to a garden stick. Fill the cup with water and sprinkle seeds in the saucer!
Just like with the fat ball, melt down some lard and add your food, but pour the mixture in to a half of a coconut shell and leave to cool. If you’re hanging the shell, make sure that you’ve drilled a hole in it and threaded the string through first. A nice idea is to put a lolly stick in the mixture as it is hardening, as it will give the birds somewhere to perch as they eat.
You can also adapt this recipe with an orange peel!
#4 Bird Feeding Tips
- Clean bird feeders as often as possible to minimise mould and the risk of disease spreading between birds.
- Place bird feeders somewhere where the bird has all round visibility. This will minimise the chance of a predatory cat, bird or fox catching the bird.
- Avoid placing the feeder too close to fences, sheds or trees where cats and squirrels might easily reach it.
- Keep feeders stocked up at all times.
- If you have enough space in the garden, try to offer a variety of food sources.
There is a possibility that any birds you feed over winter may come to rely on you as a food source throughout the rest of the year too. However as soon as you’ve spent time watching them eat, live, and play in your garden, you’ll probably never want them to leave anyway!
Have a wonderful winter, and thanks for taking care of our birds!