When you sit down to your meal, plate piled high with Christmas-time goodies, have a thought for the wild birds around you. What will they be eating for their Christmas dinner?
Winter is a difficult time of year for birds, the days are short and the nights are cold, so they must eat a lot of food in a short amount of ‘daylight time’ to have the energy to survive until the morning.
Sharing your dinner with the birds
Many of your kitchen scraps and Christmas leftovers make ideal snacks for birds visiting your garden and can help them get the food they need to survive. Here’s a quick guide to what you can put out:
- Fat – fat from cuts of meat (as long as it comes from only unsalted varieties) can be put out in large pieces, from which birds such as tits can remove morsels. Make sure that these are well anchored to prevent large birds flying away with the whole piece.
- Roast potatoes – cold and opened up, these will be eaten by most garden birds.
- Vegetables – cold Brussels, parsnips or carrots will be eaten by starlings and other birds, but remember not to put out more than will be eaten in one day, otherwise you run the risk of attracting rats.
- Fruit – excess or bruised apples, pears and other fruit are very popular with all thrushes, tits and starlings. Cut them up and leave them on the bird table or on the ground. I cut the apples up – so they can get at the apple easily
- Pastry – cooked or uncooked is excellent, especially if it has been made with real fats.
- Cheese – Hard bits of cheese are a favourite with robins, dunnocks, blackbirds and song thrushes. It will also help wrens if placed under hedgerows and other areas in your garden where you have noticed them feeding. Avoid feeding them very strong or blue cheeses. I often grate the cheese.
- Dried fruits – raisins, sultanas and currants are particularly enjoyed by blackbirds, song thrushes and robins.
- Biscuits and cake – Stale cake and broken pieces of biscuits from the bottom of the tin are high in fat and ideal for birds in the winter.
Golden rules for feeding birds
- Don’t put out salty foods. Birds can’t digest salt and it will damage their nervous systems.
- Only leave enough that can be eaten in one day – otherwise you may attract unwanted visitors, such as mice and rats.
- Always follow sensible hygiene measures, including washing hands thoroughly after filling and washing feeders.