Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help for the Birds

Arguing aside on the cat vs bird debate, if bird populations are declining then they need our help to get through the winter. According to an article by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, “Finding food and ensuring they eat enough of it to build - and maintain - adequate fat supplies is the greatest test for wild birds in winter. And the food and water we provide can be the difference between life and death for many.” Here are a few ideas to help provide food to birds during wintry conditions.

The RSPB has created a simple six-point wild bird winter survival plan that will help wildlife during the harshest weather:

• Put out feed regularly, especially in severe weather. Set up a bird table and use high calorie seed mixes. A good alternative would be kitchen scraps such as hard animal fats [suet], grated cheese and porridge oats.

• Put out hanging feeders containing black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, sunflower-rich mixes or unsalted peanuts.

• Put out fruit, such as apples and pears, for blackbirds, song thrushes and other members of the thrush family.

• Food bars or fat hung up or rubbed into the bark of trees is a great help for treecreepers, goldcrests and many other species.

• Put up nest boxes to provide shelter for the smaller birds. They may well be used for breeding later in the year.

Ensure a supply of fresh water every day. If it is very cold use tepid water but DO NOT use any antifreeze products.

And always remember a few other tricks for ensuring a bird-friendly yard:

1. Avoid putting food on the ground; use a bird table where cats cannot reach it.

2. Place feeders high off the ground but away from surfaces from which a cat could jump.

3. Place spiny plants (such as holly) or an uncomfortable surface around the base of the feeding station to prevent a cat from sitting underneath it.

4. Place an upturned tin or cone underneath the table to prevent cats from climbing the post (squirrel ‘baffles’ are commercially available).

5. Make the table-slippery using a metal post, or plastic bottles around non-metal posts. Try to avoid wood posts, for they are easier for cats and squirrels to climb.

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