Feed the BIRDS

PUBLISHED: 09:48 01 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:18 20 February 2013

Providing food for the birds around us was promoted by the virtuous Mary Poppins through the film's song Feed the Birds, and the advice from conservation charities like the British Trust for Ornithology and the RSPB generally is to feed garden bir...

At the RSPB, we have named the last weekend of each October as Feed the Birds Day to remind people about all the things we can do to help birds and other garden wildlife through the winter. Last winter was one of the harshest we've had for many years, and it forced

many birds into gardens in Herefordshire. During winters like these, birds such as blackbirds, song thrushes, and even exotic waxwings - seasonal visitors from Scandinavia - come closer to our gardens in search for food. The simplest thing you can do is to throw kitchen scraps on the lawn or patio but you may want to invest in a bird table - it's more hygienic and might be safer for the birds especially if there are cats around. Some birds such as robins and wrens prefer to feed from the ground so place any food in the centre of any area so birds have a good view all around. Hanging feeders are also popular - there are various types - some for peanuts, some for seed and some special feeders for finer seeds like nyger for goldfinches. Fat balls can hang from bird tables or you can place them in specially made feeders. A range of feeders and food means you'll have the best chance of providing nutritional grub for many species. If, like me, you don't have a garden, I can recommend that you put up window

feeders which fix to the glass using a sucker. Anything from big flocks of starlings, families of sparrows, to greenfinches and the occasional blue tit show up at my window feeder. Keeping feeders and bird tables topped

up with calorie-rich foods is great for birds (and cheeky squirrels), but autumn is also a perfect time to put in plants that are good for lots of different wildlife. Late autumn is ideal for planting a berry bearing shrub or a fruit tree. Once mature, rowan, holly and apple trees will be a great source of food for birds such as blackbirds and thrushes, while robins and starlings will feast on the insects that thrive on them. And if you plan ahead now and

introduce plants that attract insects, you will be helping the birds come springtime. House sparrows, for instance, rely on a healthy supply of insects to raise their young. Over the past 25 years, house sparrows have declined by more than 60 per cent and a shortage of insect food may be to blame. Planting nectar-rich flowers and shrubs may help house sparrows successfully raise their young.

As part of this year's Feed the Birds

Day, the RSPB is offering five

wildlife gardening top tips:

• Plant native plants such as hawthorn, ivy and honeysuckle that will provide berries in the winter for adult birds,

and insects for young birds in spring
• Make a log pile - it will be the ideal place for insects, fungi, mosses and lichens

• Provide an insect home - insects will spend the winter in these

• Install nesting boxes for birds such assparrows, winter hibernation places for hedgehogs, and roosting boxes for bats

• Create a water feature such as a pond or bog garden as much wildlife relies on a regular supply of freshwater To find out more about Feed the Birds Day on October 24 and how to create havens for birds and wildlife, log on to

www.rspb.org.uk/feedthebirds

sparrows, winter hibernation places for hedgehogs, and roosting boxes for bats

• Create a water feature such as a pond or bog garden as much wildlife relies on a regular supply of freshwater To find out more about Feed the Birds Day on October 24 and how to create havensfor birds and wildlife, log on to www.rspb.org.uk/feedthebirds

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