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Big Freeze

How to Help the birds!

Freezing conditions has prompted conservation groups to issue a plea not to disturb wildfowl.

The savage wintry weather is pushing Britain’s wildlife to the brink of a crisis, says the RSPB. To help wildlife struggle through potentially the greatest single wildlife killer of the new millennium, the Society is publishing a four-point plan to help the most vulnerable species:

1) The RSPB is organizing emergency feeding of several threatened birds at locations across the UK. Species being helped with this direct action include: bitterns and cirl buntings – all threatened species vulnerable to the impacts of extreme cold

2) The Society along with other organisations, including the British Trust for Ornithology, Natural England and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, is urging the public not to disturb flocks of wetland birds, including ducks, geese, swans and wading birds. Disturbance causes these birds to expend energy they cannot replace, pushing them to the brink.3) Britain’s gardens are an increasingly important refuge for several species of threatened species, especially during icy conditions. Several red list birds use gardens regularly in winter, including house sparrow, starling and song thrush. The icy weather will bring further red-list birds to gardens, including redpolls, yellowhammers and tree sparrows. To help these birds the RSPB is urging as many people as possible to feed garden birds.

4) The Society is urging Britain’s farmers to spare a thought for threatened birds, such as corn buntings and yellowhammers, on their land by putting out supplementary food, especially in the form of grain tailings or residue’s from last year’s crops.

Dr Mark Avery is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. He said: “The extremely hard winter spanning 1962 and 1963 was arguably the single event that had the greatest impact on Britain’s wildlife within living memory. With the icy weather predicted to last at least another week, this winter could be the single greatest wildlife killer of the new millennium. Thanks to conservation efforts a number of birds, such as the bittern have increased over the last two decades coinciding with a run of mild winters. However, now that the barometer has swung rapidly in the other direction, some species face a crisis, forcing us to take immediate action.

We have begun emergency feeding initiatives for threatened birds, and for example RSPB volunteers are putting out sprats on at core sites for the bittern, which is finding it difficult to fish at ice-locked wetland areas.

It is likely that the legacy of this hard winter will be seen in bird populations for many years to come.”


The RSPB’s switchboard is becoming clogged with people reporting sightings of unusual birds turning up in gardens. Callers have reported sightings of woodcocks, snipe and grey wagtails – all birds that normally would not be seen in gardens.

4th July 2014