It’s always nice to have lots of activity in your garden and on your balcony during the quieter months as well. If you start feeding the birds now, they will come to you throughout the winter and turn up again in the spring singing!
Not only will you be really helping the birds with tasty seeds and berries, but you’ll have the best view of them from behind the glass. You will often get to know them very quickly. The robin is a tiny tyrant who likes to eat alone. Blackbirds and pigeons may sit hopefully in your line of sight when they’re hungry. And tits are shy acrobats who will perform a fluttering Cirque du Soleil as thanks for what you have provided. The richer the pickings in your garden - and that includes weeds, berries and seed-bearing plants - the greater the likelihood that they will settle down for a tasty snack.
FEEDING KEEPS THEM WARM
Small birds burn 10 to 25% of their bodyweight every night to keep warm, whilst larger birds use 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 feed them, make sure that there is fresh food available early in the morning when they will get the most benefit.
MAKE YOUR OWN FAT BALLS
You will need:
● 1 packet of unsalted lard
● The same amount of mixed seeds
● A saucepan
● Large pine cones
● Strong string
How to make it:
STEP 1. Melt the lard in a pan. Wait until it is warm but not hot.
STEP 2. Then stir in the mixed seeds (if you really want to treat the birds, add some raisins and mealworms) and leave this mixture to cool until it is almost completely congealed.
STEP 3. Remove the mixture from the pan and insert it in the gaps in the pine cone. Press down the seed mixture firmly so that the pine cone is well filled.
STEP 4. Attach a piece of strong string to each pine cone and hang them in bushes and trees.
Handy to know
● Some birds love berry-bearing shrubs such as checkerberry and prickly heath. Other sources of a berry buffet are holly, alder, amelanchier, dogwood, blackthorn, elder, mountain ash and euonymus. They also enjoy medlars, mushrooms and the seeds of sunflowers that have finished flowering, So you can leave those for them.
● Late bloomers such as herb robert, aster, ivy and clematis still attract insects from which birds get protein.
● If you set up a feeding station now, birds will know where to come when they’re really hungry later in the year.
● A roof helps to keep the treats dry when it rains. However, birds are not particularly picky and will also descend enthusiastically on a bird table. Do make some holes in it so that the moisture can flow away and the food does not get mouldy.
● Some birds like to eat sunflower seeds, rosehips, unsalted and unroasted peanuts and hazelnuts and fruit. They can also go mad for an old slice of brown bread.
● Tits, siskins and greenfinches are accustomed to dangling as they feed, upside down if necessary. Blackbirds and other members of the thrush family are ground eaters. If you want to attract different birds, ensure that there is something to eat on a bird table, on the ground and in hanging feeders.
● Always provide a shallow bowl with water so that birds can drink and bathe.
● Some birds love berry-bearing shrubs such as . 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, 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.
What about bird cholesterol?
Birds are fine with lard - they have a much greater need for saturated fat than humans. Don’t add liquid fats such as olive oil or liquid butter to the food. It can have a laxative effect, so that birds do not store enough of the food. And when they clean themselves it can also end up on their feathers which harms their waterproofing. Just what they don’t need in winter.