As the nights draw in, it’s time to think about our wild bird population, who are bracing themselves for winter. During the summer months, there’s plenty of food and shelter about, but in autumn this begins to change.
Here’s how you can help our wild bird population.
As the weather gets chilly, birds need more protein and fat-rich foods on a regular basis including:
Fats: Pure fats, such as lard and suet, help build energy reserves, but butters and vegetable oils will smear onto feathers, which prevents insulation and waterproofing. Buy good quality fat-balls, half coconuts, and bird-cakes to be safe. Never offer desiccated coconut, as this can swell up inside a bird’s stomach.
Seeds and nuts: The smaller your mix, the smaller the birds you will attract. The better mixes contain flaked maize, sunflower seeds, and peanut granules. Sunflower seeds are a favourite with many British birds, but try black sunflower seeds, as they contain more oil. Mealworms are particularly loved by robins, and peanuts are always a favourite. Buy them from a reputable store, as they can be high in poisonous aflatoxin that can poison birds.
Insect-based: If you are looking to attract rarer birds, such as tree-creepers, then keep an eye out for ant-pupae and live insect-based foods.
It’s getting cold, but birds still need to drink. In frosty conditions, break ice on your bird-bath and continue to fill it every day. If it snows, or there is heavy frost, brush greenery clear, so birds have somewhere to queue! Give birds an extra helping hand with several water sources, as larger birds intimidate the smaller. Hanging bird-baths are worth considering as they are popular with sparrows and tits.
3. Autumn Clean Up
In the autumn, clean your bird-houses with mild antiseptic water, and check them for rot. If the box was successful, return it to the same spot. If it wasn’t, consider moving it away from strong sunlight, areas under direct rain-fall, and cat-friendly garden fences or sturdy tree branches.
Also take the time to hose down your bird-table and feeders, and scrub out the bird-bath every week too, as this keeps it free from algae and toxins. Watch out for mice and rats if you put food on your grass for ground-feeders, such as thrushes or dunnocks, and avoid leaving out rotting food. If you find that food is leftover at the end of day, you are putting out too much!
With our native species on the decline, it’s important to help our wild birds when we can. A helping hand of fresh water, peanuts or suet can make the difference between life and death for our feathered friends.