For the birds: how to care for wild birds during winter

With a little effort and encouragement, it’s easy to welcome the pleasure of birdsong into your garden this wintertime, writes Fiona Dillon.

As seen in the December 2016 issue of Irish Country Magazine.

Creating a source of food for birds in your garden is a wonderful activity for children of all ages. In fact, most of our wild birds’ favourite food can be found in your kitchen cupboard so will require minimal effort for all involved in the project. Birds are partial to peanut butter, porridge oats, grated cheese, dried fruit and much more.

Feeding tips

1. If you decide to encourage birds into your garden, don’t forget that in harsh weather they will come to depend on you as a source of food so don’t forget to top up your feeders.

2. Try to ensure that your birds also have a source of clean water nearby. This can be as simple as an upturned dustbin lip in your garden. Put stones in the lip to keep it secure and if the water freezes, be sure to remove the ice for the birds.

3. Do not use stale or mouldy peanuts – these can kill your birds.

4. Few birds (apart from pigeons) can digest wheat or corn.

5. Try to keep all feeds at least six feet off the ground and be sure that there isn't any nearby shrubbery where you cat can hide, ready to pounce.

6. Milk is not recommended for birds, but a little grated cheese in freezing weather will warm them up quickly.

Inviting birds into your garden and feeding them, can be the difference between life and death for some of our little feathered friends. It is not time-consuming to prepare food for them. And yes it can be a little messy in this day and age, we are most certainly not encouraged to cook with melted fat. But this fat is so important to our wild birds and no matter the time of year, we can’t let Santa’s robin go hungry now, can we?

Hanging oranges

Image source: Run Wild My Child

This is a very simple idea that’s bound to attract the song birds

Method:

1. Half an orange and scoop out the contents.

2.Pierce a hole in the skin to allow you to thread a ribbon or string through.

3. Melt the fat and add any dry ingredients you have in the kitchen – porridge oats, breadcrumbs, chopped apple, sunflower seeds or any type of nuts. (Remember the rule, twice as much dry ingredients as fat.)

4. Thread the ribbon or string through the orange skin.

5. Hang on a high branch and watch the birds enjoy it.

Peanut butter rolls

Image source: Wadleigh Library

Making these peanut butter rolls is a simple and fun activity that will provide your birds with lots of nutrients.

You need:

  • Crunchy peanut butter
  • Bird seed or homemade mix or seeds, nuts and raisins
  • Empty toilet roll holders
  • Method:

    1. Place the seeds on a flat tray.

    2. Cover the toilet roll holders with peanut butter.

    3. Roll the holders in the seed, mix until the peanut butter is fully covered. Pat well to ensure that the mix is firmly stuck to the peanut butter.

    4. Loop the rolls on to branches of a tree.

    5. While this is an easy project for children, is it also quite messy so be warned. However, a messy project means happy children – and even happier birds.

    Image source: Kaytee

    This article appeared in the December 2016 issue of the magazine.

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