It’s nice to have plenty going on in your garden and on your balcony in the quiet months as well. If you feed the birds now, they will make their way to you throughout the winter and will visit you again in the spring. Singing!
Not only will birds love tasty seeds and berries, but there are also few better ways to observe them than through your window. You will soon come to recognise them. The robin is a tiny tyrant who prefers to dine alone. Blackbirds and pigeons will ostentatiously sit outside your window in hope when they’re hungry. And tits are shy acrobats who express their gratitude for what you provide by performing a fluttering Cirque du Soleil for you. The richer your garden in terms of weeds, berries and seed-bearing plants, the greater the chance that they will touch down for a tasty snack.
Extra food helps keep them warm
Small birds burn up 10 to 25% of their body weight per night to keep warm, larger birds slightly less. As soon as it gets light they go out foraging in order to get enough fuel to maintain their body temperature. If you want to provide extra nutrition, ensure that there is fresh food available early in the morning - that will give them the greatest benefit.
Make your own fat balls
You will need:
● 1 packet of hard unsalted lard
● The same amount of seed mixture
● A saucepan
● Some cheerful cups that aren’t heirlooms
● Strong string
Step 1. Melt the lard in a pan. Wait until it’s warm but not hot.
Step 2. Stir in the seed mixture (if you really want to give the birds a treat, add some raisins and mealworms as well) and leave this mixture to cool a little.
Step 3. Pour the warm mixture into the cups.
Step 4. Before the mixture solidifies, insert a stick. The birds can perch on this to eat.
Step 5. Attach some strong sting to the handle of each cup and hang them on bushes and trees.
Good to know
● Some birds love berry-bearing shrubs such as checkerberry and prickly heath. Other berry buffets include holly, alder cone, amelanchier, dogwood, sloe, elder, rowan and winged spindle. They also enjoy medlars, mushrooms and the seeds of wilted sunflowers, so you can leave those out for them.
● Late bloomers such as herb robert, aster, ivy and clematis will still attract insects, which provide protein for birds.
● If you create a feeding station now, birds will know where to go when they get really hungry later in the year.
● A birdhouse helps to keep the treats dry when it rains. But birds are not particularly picky, and will also descend enthusiastically on a bird table. Do make some holes to allow the water to drain and prevent the food from going mouldy.
● Some birds enjoy sunflower seeds, rosehips, unsalted and unroasted peanuts and hazelnuts and fruit. And they are mad for an old brown bread sandwich.
● Tits, siskins and greenfinches are accustomed to snacking whilst suspended, upside down if necessary. Blackbirds and other members of the thrush family eat on the ground. If you want to attract various birds, make sure that there is food available in a birdhouse, on the ground and in hanging feeders.
● Always provide a shallow bowl of water so that birds can drink and bathe.
What about the cholesterol?
Birds cope well with lard; they need a lot more saturated fat that humans do. Don’t use liquid fats such as olive oil or ghee in the food. This can have a laxative effect, so that the birds don’t store enough of the food. It can also end up on their feathers when they groom themselves, which can affect the waterproofing of their plumage. Which is the last thing they need in the winter.