During the Winter months fruit, berries, nuts and seeds are not available for the birds as they usually are in nature.
I have been thinking about them lately, and three main questions were on my mind before I did some research to write this piece.
1.How can we help?
2. Bread is not good for them: what do birds need?
3. How can we ensure good hygiene?
In severe weather, the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds advises to feed the birds twice daily if you can: in the morning and in the early afternoon.
- Peanuts and sunflower hearts are high in protein and eaten by a variety of species.
- Suet blocks and fat balls are a good source of calories for Winter.
Check out your local shops to see what is available, but avoid a general ‘one size fits all’ seed mix. Cheap stuff is not always the right stuff for our little friends.
Be careful with sunflower seeds. Pick the best ones (more about that below) and put them in a hanging feeder or scatter them out on a flat surface.
Avoid the variety of sunflower seed that has black stripes. Birds find it very difficult to remove the hard shells on those.
For a higher oil and calorie content, plus a thinner shell, buy plain black sunflower seeds.
Sunflower hearts are the best of all. They have no shell, which saves the birds from using energy trying to crack open the outer layer. Hearts also contain the most oils and calories.
MORE FOOD TIPS
Allow leaves to to accumulate. To a ground-feeding bird every leaf that falls can end up being a source of food: who knows what might lie hidden underneath that the bird might nibble?
Keep winter bird feeders clean to avoid spreading disease among hungry birds. Clean them every 1-2 weeks and let them dry fully before putting them out again.
One of the most important things during cold weather is to put out fresh water for the birds.
Natural water sources might be frozen over with ice, and they need somewhere to drink and wash themselves. Keep an eye on the water that you put out during the day to check that it hasn’t frozen over. Make sure to top it up with fresh water each day.
DID YOU KNOW?
Birds will forage in tree bark for dormant insects and larvae, and there are still some leftover Autumn fruits to be found. The frosty blackberries pictured below grow outside my house. Ruairí (the local robin) seems to enjoy them!
THREE TIPS ABOUT FEEDERS
- If you have more than one feeder (also known as ‘seed holders’), spreading them around the garden will stop a big cluster of birds gathering at one spot.
- If there is a storm, as soon as it has passed refill the feeder(s) quickly so that the birds can refuel. This will keep them warm and safe.
- Move the feeders around from time to time to avoid a build up of droppings in any one location.
If you have anything more to add about the birds, or any comment to make, you can do so below. Feel free to share the post too.
Wishing you all the best for Winter.
If you would like an update about my bird-themed art and a group exhibition next Spring (‘The Kerry nest’), get in touch here.
MORE ART ACTION
For an example of how the arts are being used to highlight the need for ecological protection watch a beautiful dance piece here.