Feeding Our Wild BirdsKeith
Wildlife Friendly Gardens can easily support families of blue tit, great tit, robin, wren and blackbird. With any luck the activity around your bird table may attract other lesser frequented garden birds including great spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tit, goldfinch, greenfinch, nuthatch and treecreeper.
Climate Friendly: By supplementary feeding at the correct times of year you can help to make certain your garden offers sufficient food to help birds. If enough gardens provide
food, water and shelter in a locality this creates essential paths for wildlife to move along and adapt to climate change.
Over the past 50 years the numbers of many so called ‘common’ birds have dramatically declined. No-one knows for certain the reasons for this, but changing agricultural practices and a lack of food in the summer and winter are likely to have taken their toll.
Sometimes when we look out of the window into our gardens, it is difficult to believe that song thrushes, sparrows and starlings are all struggling to survive in the countryside, but this is a fact. These, among many others, are now red listed as species of concern.
Feeding birds throughout the year can really help:
In Winter food is hard to find so supplementing a birds natural food is essential to their life.
In Spring adults are busy trying to raise chicks. Not only do they need to hunt all day to find the right food for their chicks, but they also need to feed themselves. A well-fed parent is better able to gather food for its young.
In Summer and Autum birds use lots of energy moulting into their winter plumage. They also need to start to build up their fat reserves ready for winter.
There are many ways to feed birds, remember that different bird species like different food types
Bird Tables: These can be freestanding or hung from a tree. Put out seeds, chopped apples, cereal, bacon rind, biscuit crumbs, raisins,
cooked potato or hardened fat.
Fat Balls: There are three kinds: seed balls, peanut balls and insect balls. The fat and insect balls contain a small proportion of insects and are suitable for insect eaters who used to migrate south in winter, but who may now overwinter in the UK.
Feeders: These come in a variety of styles and colours. Different colours have been shown to attract different species of birds. Mesh feeders are mainly used for dispensing peanuts. Seed tubes when filled with black sunflower or nyjer seeds they may attract goldfinches and greenfinches.
Clear seed tubes when filled with mixed sunflower seeds will attract greenfinches and sparrows. If you want to supplement the diet of insect feeders such as robins and wrens, you can do so by giving them meal worms.
We would like everybody to take an interest in wildlife, and feeding birds is a superb way to start. It gives a wonderful chance to see fascinating creatures up close and personal and learn about their lives. But remember that the food you put out should only be supplimenting the birds’ natural diet, not replacing it.
You can help provide natural foods by creating a wildlife friendly garden full of fruits, berries, seeds and most importantly invertebrates. Gardens can be made more attractive to birds with the addition of water. If you do not have a bird bath or shallow area in your pond, you could use an upside down plastic bin lid or large plant pot saucer.
Birds will be attracted to many garden plants for their seeds, berries, and shelter. Plants will also be hosts to many insects, but you don’t need to plant a specific area for birds unless you want to watch them in one place.
• Berries – Birds are most attracted to berries as they provide valuable food during the winter – if they stay on the tree long enough!
• Seeds – These will also be source of food throughout the winter but the seed heads must be left to ripen. Good seed plants include: artichokes, marigolds, poppies, sunflowers, teasels and thistles.
Common diseases of garden birds are spread by contamination of food with droppings or saliva of infected birds. The risk increases when many birds feed at the same places day after day for long periods. To minimise the risks:
• Use several feeding sites around the garden to reduce numbers at any one place
• ‘Rotate’ between feeding sites, so not all are in constant use. Clean and disinfect feeders/feeding sites regularly, especially in the months between January and May. Also rinse and air-dry feeders.
• Maintain careful personal hygiene. Brushes and equipment used to clean feeders, tables and baths shouldn’t be used for other purposes. Rubber gloves should be worn and hands washed afterwards.