At this time of the year, as food is becoming scarce, we begin to notice that more birds are visiting our gardens. As temperatures drop birds need to eat as much high energy food as possible to keep warm. Unfortunately, worms and insects that they would normally eat are not available and most berries will have been eaten by now. We can all play a part to help our feathered friends get through the harsh winter months.
Wild birdseed, peanuts and sunflower seeds are a good diet for birds at this time of the year. These can be left out in the garden in feeders, or on tables, but please make sure that they are out of reach of cats. Apples, cut in half and spread on the lawn or speared on branches, are also a good source of food, particularly for Blackbirds and members of the thrush family.
Kitchen scraps such as bacon rinds, cheese (this will attract Robins), suet, raisins, moistened bread, melon seeds, fruit, stale cake, cooked potato, oatmeal and uncooked pastry will make a welcome meal. Fat is especially important at this time of the year, so please don’t throw it away. Melted fat can be poured over bread and cake scraps to make a special winter bird treat, lumps of suet can also be hung on lengths of string around the garden.
It is important not to feed desiccated (dried) coconut, uncooked rice or dry bread to birds as they may swell up in their stomachs.
As cold snaps become more common, it is important to make sure that there is a supply of fresh water in your garden. Not only do birds need water for drinking, but they also need to clean their feathers to ensure that they are properly insulated against the winter weather. A simple bird bath can be made by sinking a dustbin lid into the ground and making sure that it is kept free from ice.
It is important to remember, that once you begin to feed birds they will become dependent on you, so please keep providing them with food until mid-Spring.
Between December and February, Birdwatch Ireland asks members of the public to keep track of the birds that visit their gardens. This is done so that they can keep a record of bird populations and identify if any particular species are at risk. This is a great way to encourage all the family to become more familiar with our native birds and you can take part by visiting: www.birdwatchireland.ie
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