It's snow joke for birds

Friday 26 November 2010, 09:00

Martin Aaron Martin Aaron

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Unless you've had your head buried in snow, you'll have already heard from Derek that a cold snap is on the way!

RSPB Cymru is asking people in Wales to remember that birds also need our help to survive the harsh wintry conditions.

This year it looks as though wild birds will face an earlier than usual test in finding enough of the right kind of foods to give them energy and warmth. This means that the food and water we supply, could ensure their survival.

During cold snaps, birds become a lot more vulnerable and are more likely to come into our gardens to seek refuge.

When temperatures drop below freezing, birds struggle to find the natural food they need to stay alive and rely upon us to help them.

To help birds survive, people should provide food suc as meal worms, fat-balls, crushed peanuts, dried fruit, seeds and grain to compensate for birds natural food which is covered in snow and ice.

Leftovers like grated cheese, porridge oats, soft fruit, unsalted bacon, cooked rice, pasta and the insides of cooked potatoes are also a good source of energy for garden birds, and water for both drinking and bathing is vital.

As well as affecting some vulnerable species, the cold snap may also bring some unusual birds from overseas a little earlier than usual - such as the siskin, waxwing and fieldfare.

A 2010 waxwing visitor to Wales taken by Mike Warburton

A 2010 waxwing visitor to Wales, taken by Mike Warburton.

Dana Thomas from RSPB Cymru says: "With harsh wintry weather conditions heading our way this week the wild birds in our gardens will need a little TLC."

"The insects, berries and seeds garden birds usually feast on will become off limits thanks to frost and snow, so taking the time to provide some nutritious food and water for them is essential to their survival."

"It's not all doom and gloom, though. The chilly conditions may also mean that a flurry of rare birds we don't often see until later on in winter will appear earlier as they use our gardens as a safe haven."

"Look out for colourful species like the siskin and the waxwing that will add a bit of cheer to the bleak mid-winter."

Do your bit and follow the wild bird winter survival plan during the coldest weather:

  • 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.
  • Put out hanging feeders for black sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, sunflower-rich mixes or unsalted peanuts.
  • Ensure a supply of fresh water every day. If it is very cold use tepid water but DO NOT use any antifreeze products.
  • Put out fruit, such as apples and pears, for blackbirds, song thrushes and other members of the thrush family.
  • Food bars or fat hung up or rubbed into the bark of trees is a great help for treecreepers, goldcrests and many other species.
  • Put up nest boxes to provide roost sites for the smaller birds. They will then be used for breeding later in the year.

During winter, birds must feed at an increasing speed, but must also take plenty of rest to conserve energy.

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