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RSPB warns about the dangers in bird food packaging

Last modified: 07 December 2012

Starling stuck in feeder

Starling stuck in fat ball feeder.

Image: The RSPB

As the cold weather sets in and people step up their feeding of garden birds, the RSPB is warning about hidden hazards in some bird food packaging and giving some tips on how best to look after our feathered friends this winter.

The charity’s wildlife enquiries team receives a number of calls each year from gardeners reporting deaths or injuries to birds after they’ve become tangled up in the mesh or netting surrounding the food that’s been left out for them.

“Surprisingly, the netting that surrounds fat balls, peanuts and seed sold for bird food is one of the most dangerous things that can be put out in our gardens,” commented Val Osborne, the RSPB’s head of wildlife enquiries.

Despite suggesting they must be safe to wildlife because of the way they’re sold, the mesh and netting can easily trap birds’ feet and beaks, causing severe injury or even death.”

The RSPB recommends removing the food from the netting and transferring to a safe and suitable feeder.

Val Osborne continued: “Many suppliers of bird food now stock products without these potential death traps, but unfortunately, some have not followed suit and are still using these dangerous and unnecessary plastic mesh wrappers. Not only can they cause injury or worse to wild birds but they are just one more hazardous item of plastic to go into landfill.”

With forecasts of snow and ice in the lead-up to Christmas, it’s now more important than ever to feed and water your garden birds, says the RSPB. Natural food sources have begun to dwindle, plants may become covered with snow, berry crops are coming to an end, and lakes, rivers and ponds are freezing over.

“As the harsh weather arrives, the extra food, water and shelter we provide for birds and other creatures could be the difference between life and death for many species,” said Val.

The RSPB suggests calorie-rich foods like mixed seed, nyjer seed, fatballs, suet sprinkles, sunflower seed and peanuts as well as kitchen scraps, like mild grated cheese, rice and porridge oats. A supply of water is also essential for bathing and preening. In freezing conditions birds will become more dependent on water provided in gardens, since many natural sources of water are frozen over. Val says: “The most effective way to keep the water in your garden from freezing is to pop in a light ball that will be moved by even a gentle breeze and keep a small amount of water ice free – a ping-pong ball is ideal.  Alternatively, pour on hot water to melt the ice to make sure the birds can get to it.”
For more information about safe ways to feed birds, how best to look after the wildlife in your garden and ways to avoid the pitfalls, visit The RSPB stocks a range of bird foods and safe, high-quality feeders for your garden birds. For more information, visit The RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch is back on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 January 2013, giving people across the UK the chance to be part of the World’s biggest wildlife survey.  Register now to take part in at or call the hotline on 0300 456 8330 to receive a FREE Big Garden Birdwatch pack.

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