What are you giving the birds this Christmas?
Garden birds need help at this time of year; natural foods are scarce, the nights are cold and there is little daylight in which to find food. The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is urging people to make a commitment to the birds using their gardens, by putting out suitable food and clean, ice-free water. The BTO are also asking people to make a longer-term commitment by taking part in the BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch, a year-round survey that monitors the changing fortunes of garden birds.
The shortened amount of daylight at this time of year can cause problems for birds by reducing the amount of time available for feeding. It is also a time of year when temperatures fall and birds find it more difficult to keep warm. So when it comes to surviving, many small birds have to increase their fat reserves to get through the long nights. Traditionally then, this is a time of year when garden birdwatchers need to think about how they can help small birds get through the winter. The provision of high-energy foods such as black sunflower seeds, good quality peanuts and specialist wild bird seed mixes can make a real difference, particularly where they are provided on a regular basis.
Results from the BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch shows just how important gardens become in the winter months, to both resident birds and those that have arrived here from places like Norway, Poland and Russia. Understanding how these birds use our gardens is important for conservation and the contribution made by the 15,000 existing Garden Birdwatchers should not be underestimated.
Mike Toms, Garden BirdWatch Organiser, said A well-stocked feeding station will have hanging feeders with peanuts and seed for tits, Greenfinches and the colourful Great Spotted Woodpecker; scattered seed on a bird table or on the ground for Chaffinches, Robins and Dunnocks and treats like old apples for Blackbirds and thrushes.
Mike continued Small birds have to balance the need to lay down the fat reserves that help them through the night against the risk of being caught by a predator (fat birds are less manoeuvrable and easier to catch!). So, where food supplies are predictable (as in many gardens), small birds can wait until late in the day to top up their fat reserves, safe in the knowledge that food will be available when they need it and that they don`t have to carry extra reserves around.
Created: 20th Dec 2002