Top bird feeding tips for winter

Judiciously choose the foods for your bird table, and you may even attract scarcer species like Siskin. Photo: Jrproudfoot (commons.wikimedia.org).
Judiciously choose the foods for your bird table, and you may even attract scarcer species like Siskin. Photo: Jrproudfoot (commons.wikimedia.org).
Ahead of the Big Garden Birdwatch, the RSPB has issued nine feeding tips to encourage the public to attract more birds to their gardens. 

At this time of year, life can be tough for birds, and though the winter has been mild so far, a cold snap can mean they need more energy just to keep warm, with the short days leaving less time to find food. But the public can help them, whether they have a big garden or a window box. The RSPB has suggested 10 great bird feeding tips to help you attract more birds to your house or flat.

1. Know your birds
Different species eat different things. Sparrows and finches like seeds, tits like fat, and thrushes and Robins like fruit and mealworms, while Starlings will eat just about anything. Make sure you're providing the right menu for your avian diners. 

2. Look out for leftovers
Some human foods can be good for birds; fruit cake, mince pies, dried fruit, unsalted nuts, or apples and pears past their best. Try sprinkling grated mild cheese under trees and bushes for more timid birds like Wrens and Dunnocks. You can even use a fun family recipe to make a special cake for birds. 

3. Choose the right scraps
Birds probably won't eat your unwanted Christmas Day sprouts, and putting out poultry fat is a big no-no – it's so soft that it will stick to birds' feathers and damage their waterproofing and warmth. You should certainly avoid anything mouldy or salty, as too much salt can be poisonous to small birds.

4. Don't poison your pets!
Birds love dried fruit, but if you have a dog, don't put grapes, currants, raisins or sultanas within their reach, as vine fruits can be toxic to dogs.

5. Keep water in bird baths and ponds unfrozen
Birds need to drink and bathe every day even when it's really cold outside. A pond or bird bath is great, but even an upturned bin lid or large saucer can give birds the water they need. There are several ways to keep water from freezing if the weather turns. 

6. Put out the right amount of food
Only put out what will get eaten that day, as you want to avoid unwanted visitors like rats. This will also mean that there aren't big piles of mouldy food left on your bird table.

7. Keep it clean
Dirty bird feeders and bird tables can help spread diseases. Make sure you clean them regularly to keep your visitors healthy and happy. http://www.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/advice/helpingbirds/feeding/hygiene.aspx

8. Big Garden Birdwatch is coming
The weekend of 24-25 January sees the Big Garden Birdwatch, the world's biggest wildlife survey. If you're feeding the birds over the festive period, why not continue through January? All it takes is an hour of your time to watch the birds that use your garden.

9. There's a £5 discount for the RSPB's online shop
If you register for Big Garden Birdwatch now, the charity will give you a discount of £5 in their online shop and send you a free information pack to help you enjoy your hour counting the birds. You could be able to treat your garden visitors to something special by using the offer.
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