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Spare A Thought For The Birds




British Robin Redbreast
Winter can be a hard time of year for our feathered friends, so here's some advice on how you can help them out and also encourage them into your garden.

Question: When and what should I feed birds?

Answer: You should feed birds all year round, but be careful what you put out during the nesting season. If your feathered friends have young, make sure that peanuts are dispensed through a mesh no wider than 6mm. Too large a nut could result in a baby bird choking to death.

Question: Do birds ever hoard food given to them?

Answer: Sometimes you will find feed disappearing quicker than you might expect for the number of birds feeding on it.

Birds such as the Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, and Nuthatch are well known for carrying feed away to hide in their own store. Nuts are popular as they are nutritious and they keep well. It is believed that birds remember where they hid food by reference to landmarks, just like humans.

Question: Where should I feed them?

Answer: Set up a feeding station near enough to the house so you can enjoy the view, but not so close that the cat can spring onto the birdtable from a handy windowsill. Droppings will build up under the feeding station, so move it around from time to time to prevent disease. Food areas should be kept separate from toilets!

Question: Is there anything particular I should plant?

Answer: Birds have just two main needs - somewhere to eat and somewhere to nest. You can help by planting the types of berries that birds love - Berbesis and Cotoneater provide essential berries and make good nesting sites. If you have a bigger garden, you could plant berried trees such as Holly, Howthorn and Rowan. Ivy makes a fabulous resting place for Robins and Blackbirds, and the black berries it produces in February will be gobbled up happily by Song and Mistle Thrushes, Starlings and Wood Pidgeons. Later in the season its tiny flowers attract swarms of insects, and where there are insects there are always birds.

Question: Do I need to give birds water as well?

Answer: Try to provide your birds with some water for them to bathe and drink. You can buy a specially designed birdbath or make one from an upturned dustbin lid supported by bricks. Try and slope the bath so the birds have both a shallow and deep end. A ping-pong ball can help prevent ice forming on your birdbath in winter. You could also cultivate a marshy part of your garden - birds will love it.

Question: I would like to put up a nesting box - where should it go?

Answer: Nesting boxes are another good idea. The box should be set up in a sheltered spot, facing away from the worst weather. Pop some moss or grass rakings inside to give the birds something to nest in, and make sure that the box is safely out of the reach of marauding cats.

A Healthy Attitude

One company doing its bit to encourage wild birds back into gardens is Field Fayre. Set up by Shropshire farmers - David Gittins, Peter Brereton and Ray mantle, who are also keen conservationists and ornithologists - Field Fayre aims to provide a natural and healthy diet for wild birds with a range of foods that apply many of the nutrients the birds need, produced in a natural way.

Ranges include: All Seasons Mix and Prime Peanuts - great for birds like Tits, Greenfinches and Nuthatches. In addition, their fantastic website www.fieldfayre.co.uk is full of helpful information on how to turn your garden into a haven for bird life - it also helps you spot different birds and even allows you to hear their typical calls.

Make a Christmas cake for birds:

In a heat-proof bowl, carefully pour melted lard or suet on to a mixture of ingredients such as seed, nuts, dried fruit, cheese and cake. Use about one-third fat to two-thirds mixture. Stir together and turn out onto the bird table when solid, or push into an empty coconut shell.

Birds Love:

House Sparrows    Peanuts and small seeds such as millet.
Dunnocks    Millet and flaked maize.
Finches    Small seeds such as millet.
Tits    Peanuts and sunflower seeds.
Siskins    Peanuts.
Robins    Grated peanuts.
Wrens    Grated peanuts.
Greenfinches    Peanuts and sunflower seeds.
Blackbirds    Flaked maize.
Nuthatches    Peanuts.
Collared Doves    Small seeds such as millet.

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