Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Harsh Winter Weather Can Spell Doom For Our Garden Birds.

Harsh winter weather can spell doom for our garden birds.

The current cold spell across the country is making life hard for our garden birds. As temperatures drop, so the birds need to eat as much high energy food as possible to try to keep warm.

In an effort to ensure that as many of our feathered garden visitors as possible survive the current weather conditions. I would like to encourage people to put out food for the birds that visit their gardens. It is very easy to do and will make it far easier for the birds to keep warm.

The menu is easy. Wild bird seed, peanuts and sunflower seed can found in local supermarkets and garden shops, as can the special wire or plastic feeders that they should be put in; these feeders can then be suspended from tree branches or a bird table. Apples, whether cut in half and speared on branches or just left out whole on the lawn, are also a great source of food, particularly for Blackbirds and other members of the thrush family, as well as Blackcaps (small warblers that have only recently begun to spend the winter in Ireland).

Kitchen scraps, such as bacon rinds, cheese (particularly loved by Robins), suet, raisins, moistened bread, melon seeds, fruit, stale cake, cooked potato, oatmeal, fresh coconut and uncooked pastry, also make welcome meals. Fat is an especially important source of energy for birds, so please don’t waste it! Lumps of suet may be hung out on strings or in plastic mesh vegetable containers, and meat trimmings, bacon rinds and other scraps will also be eaten. Melted fat may be poured over bread or cake scraps to make “bird cake”.

There are a couple of items which should never be fed to birds. These include desiccated (dried) coconut, uncooked rice or dry bread, which may swell up in the bird’s stomach.

It is equally as important to ensure that your garden birds have a constant supply of fresh drinking water, something that can be very hard for them to find when ponds and puddles are frozen over. As well as needing to drink it, they also need it for bathing, to ensure that their feathers are kept clean so that they will insulate them effectively against the cold weather.

A simple bird-bath can be made from an inverted dustbin lid sunk into the ground; remember to keep the surface ice free.

Once you begin to feed the birds they quickly become dependent on you, so please be sure to continue feeding right through to mid-spring.

For further information on what you can do to help the birds around your home, please have a look at the BirdWatch Ireland website and Garden Bird Factsheets page and Garden Bird FAQ.

Don’t forget, if the food isn’t eaten within a couple of hours then be careful of unwanted visitors such as rats.

Also it is important to feed late afternoon as people tend to forget birds also feed at this time and as the night temperature drops they need extra energy to keep warm.

They will reward you in spring with bird song and new life.

Thank you on behalf of our feathered brothers and sisters.

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