It can be a tough time of year for birds when the flush of autumn berries has gone and the cold is biting. A well stocked bird feeder in the garden will be gratefully received. It’s important to look after our feathered friends. Not only do their singing and bright plumage bring us cheer they are a great asset in the plight against many garden pests. Tits will eat aphids while blackbirds, thrushes and crows will take slugs and others pick caterpillars off our cabbage leaves. Bar the odd soft fruit pillage we enjoy a harmonious relationship with our garden birds.
There are many options for the bird table. Robins will delight in morsels of canned pet food to compensate for a lack of worms in dry frosty weather. Other finely chopped kitchen leftovers such as dried fruit, cereal crumbs and grated cheese are a welcome feast. Never feed milk or cooked porridge to birds and avoid anything salty or fat from cooked meats as it is detrimental to bird feathers. Fat balls, however, are great for packing on the calories needed to fight off the cold. Stack these in a dedicated feeder taking care to remove any nylon netting – a potential cause of bird leg injuries. Peanuts are also high in fat and should be supplied crushed or in mesh feeders. Whole nuts may cause choking. Peanuts can be high in a natural toxin, which can kill birds, so be sure to buy from a reputable source. Consider leaving apples at ground level for the blackbirds and pheasants.
Locate your bird table and feeders near shrubs or trees to provide refuge from predators but not too secluded so that birds can keep an eye out for any danger. Also you want to be able to watch them from the comfort of your warm kitchen as they enjoy their winter feast. I’d love to hear about any unusual visitors you may have had to your bird table this year.
PS: Thanks to Tony for pointing out the importance of accessible fresh water for the birds. Make sure there is a rock or tennisball in the water tray/pond in case of ice.