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Feed the Birds

Image from sxc.hu

Image from sxc.hu

Post originally published Jan 11, 2010

This cold weather is particularly brutal on wild birds, who will have real trouble finding anything to eat.  They depend on finding scraps at this time of year, as there are very few insects or berries around, and the snow coverage makes that very difficult.  There are a few ways that you can help – if you have a garden or a balcony or even a windowbox, put out some bird food and a saucer of water.

Lidl does very cheap bird seed, but if you don’t fancy braving it to the supermarket, you can do a lot with scraps and leftovers from around your house.

I remember my mother using leftover chip fat to make bird food when we were kids…I don’t have a deep fat fryer myself but made a cake for the birds by melting some sunflower oil and mixing in some random stuff from my kitchen. You can use:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Raw nuts (peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and brazil nuts)
  • Raisins and other dried fruit
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Crushed crackers
  • Oats

I put it all into an old takeaway container and left it in the garden.  BirdWatch Ireland have more advice on feeding birds – you can use many household leftovers such as bacon rinds and melon seeds, and be sure to keep any leftover fat from cooking meat.  They warn against using dessicated coconut, dry bread or uncooked rice as these can all expand in the birds’ stomachs.  Finally, if you own cats, try to keep them indoors as much as possible.  We know you love them, but face it, they’re heartless killing machines.



11 Comments

  1. Im feeding the birds, if only to exercise my two very weather insulated cats.

  2. I’ve been feeding our birds for the last few years and the kids love them, luckily I’ve a very old and lazy cat. I have an old ramekin dish under the slide for protection. I put oats, raisins and sunflower seeds in every day for the robins, blackbirds, and pigeons (unfortunately guzzlers!) – and I have the fat balls (google that one!!) from Lidl which the tits and house sparrows love. I get thrushes, dunnocks, chaffinches and some other mystery bird also – it’s great to watch. If you start though, keep it up as they’re birds of habbit. Don’t give duck fat, apparently it’s too gooey and coats their wings, not good. Don’t forget a dish of water…

  3. I put that stuff out for the birds over the weekend (it looks tempting even to me) and they haven’t touched it! A few people on Twitter are saying the same thing, no takers for their lovingly prepared bird treats. BB, do you have any idea why?

  4. I put out boiled potato peelings, fat balls and stale bread. Regular visitors are bullfinches, chaffinches, robins, dunnocks, blackbirds, great tits and blue tits. In the last couple of weeks we have also had goldfinches and redwings visiting. Our garden is quite small but there is an overgrown piece of land behind it and I think that helps.

  5. Hiya, I think it takes a while for the birds to find your garden. We went through a quiet time for a while but once the cold weather started again they were back. The fat balls I have placed under the cover of a tree, so they hang down under the branches, they didn’t like the more exposed places. The bluetits, greattits go for the fat balls, the house sparrows go for the seeds in the seed feeder. Blackbirds love apple butts and the raisins on the ground as does our robin. Av – are the redwings like a cross between a thrush and a chaffinch? We have three or so of them in our garden, quite rotund guys, very cute. Does your mummy blackbird beat up the daddy? Very territorial!!

  6. haha haven’t seen any henpecked blackbirds but the redwings have been chasing each other around. They are a type of thrush bigger than a chaffinch, spotty underside, stripey head. there is a pic here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redwing but the ones in my garden are fatter than this. They don’t hang off the feeder like the smaller birds do but forage around in the grass.

  7. Since my initial post, one cat has taken to having “conversations” with our robin. They actually sit on the patio chatting to eachother. Having seen how the robin bullies the other birds in the garden, I wouldnt mess with him either!

  8. That’s amazing Claire! Sounds like a Christmas card cover, would love to see a picture :)

  9. I know your opinion of Tescos but I make a habit of calling into them just before closing and buying their reduced to clear bakery items. I currently have 4 tiger loaves which I bought for 15cent each ready to be broken up for the birds over the next few days.

    The birds are also a great way of getting rid of odds and ends. Before I put waste food (including fruit/veg) into the brown bin, I ask myself could the birds eat this? From experience they’ll eat almost anything, well except baked beans!

    here’s a link from birdwatch ireland – it also gives advice on what you shouldn’t feed them
    http://www.birdwatchireland.ie/News/Harshwinterweathercanspelldoomforourgarden/tabid/492/Default.aspx

  10. Hi Peter,

    I don’t know how to edit my post, so can you take out the link to Birdwatch ireland as you already included it in your original post – sorry – I only read the first part of your posting.

  11. At the moment said cat will not leave the comfort of his radiator bed. The snow does not impress him.