General

Feeding Birds Correctly In Winter

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The food supply for our native wild birds is becoming increasingly scarce. In particular, species that are rare and shy anyway have the problem of not only finding enough food in winter, but all year round. There are many reasons for this, they all have in common that they are man-made: Conventional agriculture creates monocultures in which wild plants no longer stand a chance and are rigorously mowed down. Gardens are neatly tended and cared for, supposed “weeds” that could serve as food for countless insects and birds are removed. Whole gardens are completely sealed with concrete or stones. You can’t sugarcoat it: the natural diversity in Germany is decreasing in many places. This can have fatal consequences for wild birds, because fewer insects and fewer native plants mean less food for them. This becomes a life-threatening problem, especially in winter, when the birds need a lot of energy and therefore food to maintain their high body temperature. Therefore, birds should be provided with suitable food in winter.

Important: If you start feeding birds in winter, you must continue to do so until spring and fill up the feeding stations regularly. The birds rely on the feeding places! If there is suddenly nothing left to get, they can get into big trouble.

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN FEEDING BIRDS IN WINTER?

The right location for feeding, the choice of suitable feeders or dispensers, feed tailored to the different species and compliance with hygiene measures are important to ensure that the birds can eat safely and do not contract diseases.

SUITABLE LOCATION FOR FEEDING

Basically, there are bird species that tend to fly to higher feeding grounds, such as tits, sparrows or finches, and those that look for their food on the ground, such as blackbirds, robins, fieldfares and wrens. If you want to provide food for all of these species, you need an elevated feeder and one near the ground.

The location should be easy for the birds to reach and allow them to fly away quickly in the event of danger. Trees and hedges in the immediate vicinity are therefore useful. Feeding stations that offer a clear view on three sides are suitable, so that the birds have a good view of their surroundings and can escape quickly if enemies such as cats or birds of prey approach.

In addition, care should be taken to ensure that window panes near the feeding site do not pose a fatal danger. It is not uncommon for birds to fly into it at great speed due to reflections and die or be seriously injured. Stickers on the window panes can help here.

FEED HOUSE, FEED SILO OR MISS BALLS?

A wide variety of feeding variants are now commercially available: from solid wooden houses on stands to fat balls and peanut sticks with hanging brackets to feed silos for the floor or for hanging. It is important with all these variants that they have sufficient protection against rain, moisture and provide snow. For this reason, feed silos that only release part of the feed at a time are more suitable than houses with a surface on which the feed is scattered. These also offer the advantage that they require relatively little maintenance. As a rule, it is sufficient to give them a thorough cleaning before and after the winter. Feeders with an open area where the feed is scattered have the disadvantage that the birds walk on the feed and it becomes soiled with faeces and urine. Not only does this necessitate regular cleaning with hot water, but it can also allow circulating diseases to spread more quickly. Furthermore, there is often more food available than is eaten. Leftovers must therefore be removed daily, especially with soft food such as raisins and fruit.

 

WHAT FOOD DO BIRDS NEED IN WINTER?

A high-quality wild bird feed with different local seeds and grains is suitable as basic feed. Almost all grain-eating bird species will find something here that suits them and suits their natural diet. For example, almost all birds like to eat sunflower seeds. These can be offered peeled or with shell. With such a food, you primarily attract grain eaters such as tits, finches and sparrows.

So-called soft eaters such as robins, blackbirds or fieldfares are happy about raisins, fruit and oatmeal. Since this feed spoils faster, uneaten leftovers must be removed daily.

 

Fat balls with a plastic net pose a great danger to birds because they can injure themselves.

In addition, you can offer, for example, bought or homemade fat dumplings that contain a mixture of fat and seeds. These provide energy for the cold season. It is very important here to make sure that they do not have plastic nets, as the birds can get tangled up in them and seriously injure themselves. There are special dispensers for fat balls without a net. Here we have summarized simple “recipes” for you on how to make fat balls & co. yourself with little effort.

Important: (seasoned) leftovers and bread are not suitable for birds. The latter can swell up in the stomach and harm the birds.

PAY ATTENTION TO HYGIENE

Hygienic conditions are of key importance in wild bird feeding to prevent birds from contracting diseases at feeding sites. In winter this is less of a problem than in the warm season, but you should still pay attention to hygienic conditions. Uneaten leftovers and soiled or wet food must be removed daily. Houses with an open feeding area for the birds to roam need to be thoroughly cleaned with hot water on a regular basis.

SUSTAINABLE FEED

Last but not least, a note on the subject of sustainability: one should always be aware that the plants that serve as the basis for the birdseed also have to be grown somewhere. This is mostly done in conventional agriculture, and this, as we know, leads to monocultures and dwindling habitats for animals and insects. Therefore, it makes sense to pay attention to organically produced feed. Your own garden can also be designed in such a way that birds and insects can find food in it all year round, for example by planting native shrubs such as mountain ash or hawthorn. Undergrowth and dead wood are also important for birds: many insects find shelter there, which in turn serve as food for the birds. The more varied your garden is designed with native plants and the more you let nature take its course, for example by cutting back bushes towards the end of winter or leaving dead wood lying around, the better living conditions will be created for birds and other animals.

CONCLUSION

Natural biodiversity is declining in many places in Germany. Fewer insects and native plants mean less food for birds. This can become a problem, especially in winter: birds need a lot of energy to maintain their high body temperature and survive the cold winter. Therefore, they are dependent on human feeding, especially at low temperatures. When feeding, attention should be paid to hygienic conditions and the right food supply for grain and soft eaters. If you decide to support the birds in your area, you should do so throughout the winter, as they rely on the feeding sites they discover.

 

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