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Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Monday, 29 November 2010
RSPB asks us to feed the birds as cold hits Devon
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon

Blackbird in the snow

Have you ever thought about rubbing fat into the bark of your trees or placing porridge oats on your bird table?

These are just some of the ways you can help our feathered friends as we, and they, shiver in the cold snap.

The RSPB in the South West is giving guidance on how to help birds survive in the wintery weather.

The charity is urging people to put out a variety of tasty treats as our winged visitors struggle to get to their natural food sources.

Mealworms, fat-balls, crushed peanuts, dried fruit, seeds and grain are just some of the foods the birds love.

Feed the birds
Put out feed regularly
Put out hanging feeders for seeds
Ensure a supply of fresh water every day
Hang up food bars or rub fat into the bark of trees

And rubbing fat into the bark of trees is a great help for treecreepers, goldcrests and many other species.

"This year it looks as though wild birds will face an earlier than usual test in finding enough of the right kind of foods to give them energy and warmth," said Tony Whitehead from the RSPB in Devon.

"The food and water we supply could ensure their survival."

As well as affecting some vulnerable species, the cold snap may also bring some birds from overseas into Devon gardens a little earlier than usual.

"Already we've seen both fieldfare and brambling around our own garden, both of which are winter visitors," said Tony.

Snow on roses at Castle Drogo
The snow arrived in Devon at the end of November

"And our bird feeders are certainly a lot busier than they were a couple of weeks ago."

Tony explained that when the weather conditions take a turn for the worse there is often a noticeable change in the behaviour of wildlife.

Birds will try to replenish energy overnight first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon with a spurt of activity.

During winter birds must feed at an increasing speed, but must also take plenty of rest to conserve energy.

Many birds become more sociable to improve their chances of survival during cold weather, flocking together to improve their chances of locating food, and huddling together during the critical night-time period to help conserve body heat.

"It's not all doom and gloom, though," said Tony.

"The chilly conditions may also mean that a flurry of more unusual birds we don't often see until later on in winter will appear earlier as they use our gardens as a safe haven."

For more information on how to help birds this winter visit the RSPB's website.

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