Despite 61 per cent of Britons owning a bird bath, table or nesting box – to attract wild birds to their gardens – recent figures have revealed that 76 per cent rarely, or do not, feed the birds over the winter months.
The survey was conducted by Pets at Home, asking more than 1,000 Brits and the shocking figures come at time when the British Trust for Ornithology reports that 23 out of 24 common UK bird species are producing fewer than average chicks as a result of a soggy summer.
Further results reveal that, of those who do feed the birds, 58 per cent feed scraps of bread which fails to provide the nutrition they need to survive. It is advised not to feed bread to wild birds because it doesn’t afford them the calories needed but makes them feel full.
Maeve Moorcroft MVB MRCVS, head of pets at Pets at Home, explained: “British wild birds rely heavily on the food and nutrition that people leave out for them and unless we continue to provide the vital supplement to their daily intake of calories, our wild birds will really suffer.”
Lax bird feeders are also guilty of feeding leftover cooked porridge, which is very dangerous as it can glue a bird’s beak together when it dries and cooking fat, which can damage feathers and is a breeding ground for bacteria.
Ben Andrew, RSPB wildlife advisor, said: “The food we put out in our gardens can be a real lifeline to birds at this time of year.
“High-fat, high-energy foods are best in the cold weather and use good quality nuts and seeds, fatballs, or even grated cheese on the bird table. Remember to put a clean and fresh supply of water out daily for birds to drink and bathe in.”
He added: “This is especially important in the winter when natural supplies could get frozen over. Not only will a regular supply of the right food help birds to survive the coldest months, but a wonderful mix of birds visiting the garden is just lovely to watch.”
The Pets at Home boss added: “Despite meaning well, people do need to be careful that they’re not feeding wild birds the wrong food as they could be doing more harm than good.
“Milk, for example, could cause very serious upsets and even death. Attracting wild birds to your garden in the winter is a wonderful thing to do, but make sure you’re 100 per cent certain that what you’re feeding them is right.”
Advised foods are wild bird food, which is suitable for ground, table and hanging feeders; high energy husk-free food – popular with keen gardeners – as it offers no germination of seeds, can be fed all year and is suitable for anywhere. Robin and songbird food is interesting, nutritious and palatable to all songbirds and can be chopped to attract smaller birds, while fruit and berry ground food is particularly attractive to robins, chaffinches and house sparrows.
There are also fat balls, which are good high energy treats and easy to hang; and sunflower hearts which provide a high source of energy and are particularly attractive to finches, tits, blackbirds and house sparrows.