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Don’t forget the birds this winter

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This harsh weather brings problems to birds as well as us. They have problems feeding when snow covers everything, the temperature during the day barely gets to zero and all outside drinking water is frozen. Please put some food and unfrozen water outside for them; they will repay us all the year round by visiting our gardens and parks.

The sort of food they eat includes:

         bird seed, peanuts and bird cake,

         cooked rice, brown or white (without salt added) is beneficial and readily accepted by all species during severe winter weather. Uncooked rice may be eaten by birds such as pigeons, doves and pheasants but is less likely to attract other species,

         any breakfast cereal is acceptable, although you need to be careful only to put out small quantities at a time. It is best offered dry, with a supply of drinking water nearby, since it quickly turns into pulp once wetted,

         apples and pears cut in half and left on the ground,

         lard and beef suet on their own are fine as they re-solidify after warming,

         meaty tinned dog and cat food forms an acceptable substitute to earthworms, but can attract neighbourhood cats,

         bread broken into chunks.

But Turkey Fat isn’t suitable - cooked turkey fat is extremely dangerous to birds and could even kill them. Many people put the leftover contents of Christmas dinner roasting tins outside for birds, or pour the fat onto bird tables or mix it with seed believing it’s as beneficial to them as other fats like lard and suet. They think it will give them an energy boost and provide them with the nutrients they need.

But cooked turkey fat is completely unsuitable for birds:

         it stays soft even when cooled, meaning it could smear onto birds’ feathers and ruin water proofing and insulating qualities,

         many people rub turkey joints liberally with salt to crisp the skin and high levels of salt are toxic to birds,

         The fat in roasting tins can’t be separated from other leftover liquids like meat juices and can go rancid quickly. This is an ideal breeding ground for salmonella and other food poisoning bacteria. Birds are prone to bacterial infections at this time of year as their defences and energy levels are low because of the cold.

Please spare a thought for the birds and put some food out for them during the early part of the day so they can eat and keep themselves warm during the bitter nights. They also have to have drinking water, so a container of unfrozen water is a must! A plastic bowl, upturned dustbin lid, it doesn’t matter to them as long as the water isn’t frozen. 

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