Be a friend to the birds
It’s a tough time for birds in the UK at the moment, with the big freeze making food hard to come by in recent days. As Spring arrives, birds are thinking about finding a mate and nesting, so having enough food and energy is especially important.
This week we’re sharing some simple tips on caring for the birds at this critical time of year.
Feed the birds
The extreme weather has forced wild birds such as winter thrushes into gardens to search for food. Usually these birds feed on berries in hedgerows and woodlands and steer clear of gardens, but after the long winter, much of the food has gone.
We can help by leaving out chopped fruit, such as apples and pears, mealworms and crumbled cheese, as well as birdseed. Remember not to feed too much bread to birds – while it will give them energy its nutritional value is very low. Don’t leave out bread later in spring and into summer (breeding season) as breadcrumbs can choke baby birds.
Leave water out
Birds need water for drinking and bathing. Keep bird baths topped up, and ensure they’re ice-free by leaving a ping pong ball in them – this will prevent the ice from freezing across the whole bath. If you don’t have a bird bath, they’re available to buy in garden centres, or the RSPB has a guide on building your own bird bath cheaply.
Help with nesting
Birds will begin looking for nesting materials soon. We can help by leaving bird friendly scraps around, such as:
- Twigs: if you’ve been pruning, leave some twigs out for birds to weave into their nexts
- Dry grass: many songbirds such as thrushes and sparrows use dried grasses. Try to leave strands around 5-10 cm long out for them.
Or grow your own nesting-friendly materials:
- Moss: don’t be tempted to clear moss away from shady patches, it can be a lovely soft nesting material for some species
- Mud: water your dirt and let the robins, swallows and swifts use it for their nests
Don’t be tempted to use these materials from the home:
- Yarn and wool threads: long strands are dangerous for birds. The threads can wrap around their legs, cutting off circulation. Long human hair is dangerous for the same reason. If you want to leave out short pet hair make sure it hasn’t been treated with de-lousers or other treatments
- Lint from your dryer – while it looks lovely and soft, it will soak up water and contains traces of chemicals from your washing detergent and fabric softener.
Create a logpile
A logpile is a great way to attract minibeasts to your garden, which in turn is helpful for feeding the birds. If you can create two log piles, a shady spot will be a haven for creatures such as woodlice, snails and wood mice, whereas a sunny spot may provide a home for solitary bees.
Use any logs and sticks from your tree pruning, or ask neighbours, rather than raid the woods for your logpile! And once you’ve created it, why not sit together and read The Gruffalo, which (as you probably know!) features a famous logpile house?