Wildlife needs a helping hand from you this Christmas

RSPB WinterWith snow, ice and frost hitting much of the UK, these are tough times for wildlife, and it’s snow joke for hungry birds

As cold weather and snow sweep across the UK, garden birds need your help!

During cold snaps, birds become vulnerable and are more likely to come into our gardens to seek refuge. When temperatures drop below freezing, the insects, berries and seeds that garden birds usually feast on will become off limits thanks to frost and snow. Taking the time to provide some nutritious food and water for them is essential to their survival.

To help your birds survive, you can provide food such as meal worms, fat-balls, crushed peanuts, dried fruit, seeds and grain. Leftovers, including grated cheese, porridge oats, soft fruit, unsalted bacon, cooked rice, pasta and the insides of cooked potatoes are also good sources of energy for garden birds, and water for both drinking and bathing is vital.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The chilly conditions may also mean that you get to see some birds you don’t often see until later on in winter. They will use gardens as a safe haven.

Six top tips for helping your garden birds:

  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 grated cheese, pastry and porridge oats.
  2. Put out hanging feeders with 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. Birdfood 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.

When the weather conditions take a turn for the worse, you might notice that your birds start behaving differently. They will be very active first thing in the morning after a long, cold night and last thing in the afternoon as they try to build up energy to get them through another night.

During winter, birds feed often, but they have to take plenty of rest to conserve energy. Many become more sociable, flocking together to improve their chances of locating food, and huddling together during the critical night-time period to help conserve body heat.

Other birds fly to milder regions in search of areas less affected by the weather where food is still readily available. This can create a sudden and dramatic change to the birdlife in your area.

So, leave some food out for your birds and keep your eyes peeled – you might be lucky enough to spot some unusual garden visitors. Let us know who’s eating at your garden restaurant!

Find out more about how to help wildlife over the winter at www.rspb.org.uk

And if you’re interested in birds and the world around you, then make sure you tune in to Wildlife Watch, every weekday at 3.50pm.