The RSPB is urging people to feed their garden birds in order to help them survive the cold weather snap this month.
As snow and icy temperatures continue across the country, the wildlife charity is appealing to the public to care for wild birds, adding that birds need more energy to stay warm at this time of year and have less daylight to find food.
It suggests that kitchen scraps such as mild grated cheese, bruised fruit, cooked rice, unsalted bits of hard fat, roast potatoes and dry porridge are popular with garden birds. In addition, “excellent” full-fat winter food can be provided by making homemade bird cakes or fat balls.
The RSPB also suggests calorie-rich foods like mixed seed, sunflower seed, nyjer seed, as well as good quality peanuts.
However, it warned that people must avoid cooking fat, as it can stick to feathers and stop them from being waterproof. Other foods it says to avoid are dried coconut, cooked porridge oats, milk, and mouldy or salted food.
In addition, it said that the supply of fresh water is essential for drinking and bathing, adding that water sources can be hard to find with freezing temperatures. In light of this, it suggests that floating a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of water will stop it from freezing over.
The RSPB has also called on people to provide shelter from the harsh weather, adding that plant dense hedges such as privet or hawthorn, or let ivy or holly, provide good shelters for wild birds. It also suggests the use of nestboxes which can help keep birds warm at night, as they are frequently communal with many birds packing in together for extra warmth.
RSPB wildlife advisor, Charlotte Ambrose said: “During the warmer months birds feed on insects and seeds, but the cold weather means they move into our gardens to find refuge. You can make a real difference and improve their chances of survival, as well as being rewarded by great views of wildlife in your garden or outside space.”
Its latest advice comes as the RSPB saw a “phenomenal” response to its annual Big Garden Birdwatch last month, which is the biggest wildlife survey in the world.
The charity is currently processing submissions from the birdwatch, but says it has already noted “incredible levels of participation”. Participants now have until 19 February to submit their results and can do so online at the RSPB website.
Beccy Speight, chief executive of the RSPB said: “A big thankyou to everyone who has taken part – what an incredible response.
“We hope that for everyone who has taken part, especially those taking part for the first time, in the Birdwatch for the first time this year, it was not only fun but also ignited or strengthened their connection with the wildlife in their local area and what they can do to help it. Please do continue to send your results in. We can’t use all of the important data you’ve gathered unless you submit them to us.”