Food is especially important for birds at this time of year as they stock up their fat reserves in order to keep warm.
Providing food and water is a great way to attract new visitors and encourage your feathered friends to spend more time in your garden. This is a handy way to help you brush up on your identification skills, giving your more time to spot which birds revisit or dwell in your greenspace.
What’s more, if you’re still unsure about what a bird might be, why not snap a photograph? You can send it to the RSPB via Facebook or Twitter (@rspbengland) where the charity’s friendly experts will be on hand to help all year round.
What to feed the birds
Different feeders and food will attract a variety of birds, with foodstuffs such as sunflower hearts, nyjer seeds and suet being popular favourites (all of which can be purchased both in store and online through the RSPB’s shop at rspb.org.uk/shop).
According to the RSPB, fruits like apples and pears, even when they’re past their best, can also be left out for birds such as blackbirds and thrushes, while grated cheese can be a fantastic source of energy and protein for a range of birds. Cooked pastry, defrosted peas or unsalted bacon leftovers are also great options, as well as cooked rice, pasta and the inside of potatoes providing a great energy source.
You don’t necessarily need an all singing all dancing feeder either – there are some great guides to making your own suet balls and speedy bird cakes for all the family to get involved with over on the RSPB’s website (rspb.org.uk).
Recipe – not suitable for human consumption
You will need:
- Good quality bird seed
- Grated cheese
- Suet or lard
- Yoghurt pots
- Mixing bowl
Children with nut allergies should not attempt to make this recipe. It is not suitable for children with nut allergies. Note that bird seed, including peanuts bought for birds, is not suitable for human consumption. As some dogs and cats react badly to raisins please do not put them out in areas where these animals might get to them.
- Carefully make a small hole in the bottom of a yoghurt pot. Thread string through the hole and tie a knot on the inside. Leave enough string so that you can tie the pot to a tree or your bird table.
- Allow the lard to warm up to room temperature, but don’t melt it. Then cut it up into small pieces and put it in the mixing bowl.
- Add the other ingredients to the bowl and mix them together with your fingertips. Keep adding the seed/raisin/cheese mixture and squidging it until the fat holds it all together.
- Fill your yoghurt pots with bird cake mixture and put them in the fridge to set for an hour or so.
- Hang your speedy bird cakes from trees or your bird table. Watch for greenfinches, tits and possibly even great spotted woodpeckers.
The RSPB’s ever-popular Big Garden Birdwatch is set to return for its 43rd year on 28, 29 and 30 January 2022. Having attracted one million participants – including nearly 16,500 people taking part across Dorset – in 2021, you can join 2022’s Big Garden Birdwatch event by simply recording the birds you see land in your garden, balcony or local park and sending your results to the RSPB. On hand to help you connect with the nature in your garden, the charity have a fantastic range of resources at rspb.org.uk, including their handy bird identification guide at rspb.org.uk/birdidentifier to help you get started.
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