Feeding Garden Birds
Feeding garden birds can be very rewarding and is a good way to help birds all year round – but particularly during the breeding season and throughout winter (when cold weather and short days are added complications).
It is important that a good variety of the correct food is provided, and that it is well distributed throughout the garden; this will attract more species and will give smaller birds a better chance against larger, or more aggressive, competitors.
Care should be taken to position feeders away from potential predators such as cats or sparrowhawks. Take into account the needs and preferences of the different species. Little birds such as finches and tits will appreciate hanging feeders containing peanuts or sunflower seeds.
Blackbirds are partial to grapes and berries, whilst robins will happily eat grated cheese placed beneath bushes or shrubs. Some birds enjoy eating from a bird table – a bird bath is also a good idea, as water is clearly as important as food. Fruit-bearing plants (such as thistles and alder) will provide natural food for many birds.
Hygiene is an important issue when feeding birds; disease can spread easily amongst congregating birds, so ensure all surfaces are cleaned regularly. Also, make sure that the food given is from a trusted source. Moulds that may develop on badly stored peanuts, for example, can give off harmful toxins. Equally, uneaten food in the garden can attract rats, so discard any excess and try to give only the amount likely to be eaten (demand is likely to fluctuate). Again, when positioning any food for birds, avoid overhanging branches where it may become contaminated by droppings.
There are some foods that should not be put out for birds; these include any with a high salt content, dry desiccated coconut and uncooked rice. In addition, extra caution should be exercised during the breeding season when food should be broken into smaller pieces to make it more manageable for chicks (who might otherwise be presented with a choking hazard or remain hungry).
Hedgehogs and your garden
Many people are happy to have hedgehogs visiting their gardens as they are interesting to watch and are well known ‘gardener’s friends’ – slugs, snails and caterpillars being a part of their diet.
They themselves, however, may face a variety of dangers in the garden environment – these include bonfires, ponds, poisonous slug pellets and rubbish (cans, bottles etc…) They are also prone to parasites.
Hedgehogs (who each have, on average, between 5000 and 6000 spines) can be helped by trying to make the garden safe (checking leaves for hibernating hedgehogs before lighting bonfires, for example). It is also helpful to make well-suited areas for them to nest.
Canned dog-meat is one of the foods often put out to supplement the hedgehog’s natural feeding, much of which consists of eating insects (though sometimes they will eat birds’ eggs or small mammals). Water is also welcomed.
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