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RSPB call to help wild birds feed during cold weather
Robin in the snow
During cold snaps, birds struggle to find natural food

As cold weather heads into Lancashire, the RSPB is reminding us that birds need our help to endure the conditions.

During cold snaps, birds struggle to find the natural food they need and have to rely on us.

Val Osborne, senior wildlife adviser for the RSPB says: "The insects, berries and seeds garden birds usually feast on will become off-limits.

"Taking the time to provide some nutritious food and water for them is essential to their survival."

Lancashire is a great place for birds with some internationally important areas in winter.

These are mainly on the coast with the estuaries of the Mersey, Ribble, Wyre, Lune and Kent providing bags of food for the hundreds of thousands of waders and wildfowl.

Dave Bickerton
Dave Bickerton from Rishton has been birding for over 35 years

Dave Bickerton from Rishton has been birding for over 35 years. He says: "As we tidy up the countryside we have removed a lot of areas where our native and visiting birds would feed and find shelter, so the practice of feeding birds in your garden has allowed more birds to stay in our country and help them to survive the winter period.

On the continent

"Generally, the maritime climate of Britain means that we have mild winters in comparison to our near continental neighbours and so there is a huge influx of birds to the country especially in the lowland and coastal areas.

"Everyone knows that the summer visitors like swallows and warblers leave for warmer climes as they are mostly insectivorous but their place is taken by hordes of winter finches and thrushes feeding on the seeds and berries of our woodlands, fields and hedgerows.

"It is likely that a large proportion of the blackbirds, chaffinches and robins in the garden have come from Scandinavia, eastern Europe and Russia for the winter."

Some birds remain on the continent as there may be enough food for them there but already this winter there has been an invasion of waxwings, with sightings of large flocks in Preston and Lancaster.

Put out feed regularly, especially in severe weather
Set up a bird table and use high calorie seed mixes, grated cheese, pastry and porridge oats
Ensure a supply of fresh water every day
Put out fruit, such as apples and pears
Fat can be hung up or rubbed into the bark of trees
Put out fruit, such as apples and pears
Put up nest boxes for smaller birds that can be used for breeding later in the year

Towns and cities start to become more attractive to birds as they are warmer and give them a better chance of surviving the cold nights.

Dave adds: "The important thing is to maintain the food supply wherever possible. Birds will generally do a circuit of the local area and know where food would normally be available so if you miss the odd day, it shouldn't be a problem.

'Constant stream'

"Also it's intriguing to know that those blue tits that are always at your feeder are actually lots of different ones; they'll feed up and move on, only returning in a couple of hours or so.

"Though peanuts (ensure they are certified bird-safe) have been a staple over the years, I've found that birds have a love for sunflower seeds and virtually guarantee a constant stream of birds to your feeders.

"Also, tits especially like fat so make your own fat cake using dripping and lard with some seeds mixed in - they'll love it.

"Birds also need shelter to roost, so don't tidy up the garden too much and wait a while before you trim back that leylandii!"

Fat lot of good for birds this winter
18 Dec 09 |  Nature & Outdoors


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