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Breeding and Feeding

? don?t stop putting food out

Winter may be almost over but garden birds still need our help. Having survived the winter they will now be thinking about breeding and this requires a lot of energy. So just because it’s getting warmer, don’t stop putting food out. The BTO is urging people to stock up on high energy seeds and to give their garden birds a helping hand and a fighting chance this breeding season.

With the cold winter months almost at an end, love is in the air for many of our garden bird species. The longer days and warmer temperatures will prompt birds to start this year’s nesting attempts. This is a costly business in terms of energy and birds will need all the help they can get to fuel their breeding, but garden owners can make all the difference between success and failure by carrying on providing food.

“Many of us think that it’s only the winter months when birds need food. Feeding at this time helps birds survive but we shouldn’t stop with the advent of spring,” says Martin Fowlie of the BTO/CJ Garden BirdWatch Team. “Breeding requires a huge amount of energy and by carrying on feeding, people can have a very real effect on the success of garden nesting attempts.”With Mothering Sunday fast approaching perhaps we can spare a thought for all those mothers to be in our gardens and provide a helping hand in the form of some suitable food. It is important to make sure that you provide food that is appropriate and there are certain foods that should be avoided. For example, peanuts should only be provided behind a wire mesh or as granules to ensure that young birds are not presented with whole peanuts that may cause them to choke. Similarly, salty foods and desiccated coconut should also be avoided. With an increasing range of wild bird foods now available to garden birdwatchers, it is relatively easy to get hold of suitable foods, like sunflower hearts, nyjer seed, peanut cake and even live foods like mealworms. Calcium rich food such as oyster shell grit is included in some seed mixes and can help provide the necessary building blocks for egg production.“Making eggs and feeding chicks will put a real strain on this year’s mothers. By putting out food we can make sure that our garden birds are able to get hold of enough energy to give them a good chance of getting through the breeding season,” Martin adds.

During the chick-rearing period birds must find food for their offspring and themselves. While in the nest the chicks are generally fed on a diet of insects and research has shown that the provision of suitable supplementary foods can help birds meet the demands of breeding, possibly by allowing the adults to eat the food we provide while saving other ‘natural’ foods, like caterpillars, for their hungry chicks.

In order to help people select appropriate foods and to provide food in a suitable manner, the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch Team have produced a leaflet on feeding garden birds. To receive a free copy of this leaflet, please send your name and address details to GBW Feeding Leaflet, BTO, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU, email gbw@bto.org or telephone 01842-750050.

4th July 2014