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Help wildlife feed the family this summer

Last modified: 03 June 2014

Female blackbird

Image: Nigel Blake

Despite a commonly-held view that wild creatures only need help finding food during winter months, we're asking people to put out food this summer too.

Food shortages can occur at any time of year and this can be a major problem for garden birds especially, which are currently trying to find food to feed hungry chicks. Cool and wet conditions such as those experienced in many parts of the UK recently, can make it very difficult for birds to find their staple insect food and in particular caterpillars.

Richard James, a wildlife advisor at the RSPB said “Now is the height of the birds breeding season so there are many busy parents looking for food to feed their hungry offspring. The chilly, damp weather means that insects can be harder to find so the adult birds could benefit from a helping hand.”

“Birds need to find food for their young brood quickly and don’t want to be away from them for too long, so having a supply of seeds, mealworms and suitable kitchen leftovers can really help them out.”

The RSPB actually sells a third more bird food in June than it does in December. The charity believes the food may be eaten more quickly than in other months because birds see it as a convenience and, just like some busy mums and dads, opt for the easier option to keep their children happy.

And it's not just birds that need our help at this time of year. The RSPB is asking people to leave out food for hedgehogs too, such as tinned dog or cat food, crushed biscuits or specialist hedgehog food which can brought from the charity's online shop. (See note 2). Never give hedgehogs milk as it can cause stomach problems.

The RSPB is asking gardeners to plant insect friendly flowers too, so butterflies, bees and other insects can thrive. Honeysuckle, dahlia and cornflower are among those that are attractive to look at and nectar rich for insects.

A year since the RSPB launched its biggest-ever campaign, Giving Nature a Home, almost 300,000 people have pledged to provide summer and winter food for birds, put up a nestbox or plant nectar-rich flowers among other measures to help UK wildlife.

And it’s not just members of the public who have been Giving Nature a Home. Last month, LegoLand launched a wildlife garden made entirely from LEGO bricks, designed to inspire visitors to attraction to give nature a home. The set of Emmerdale was one of the first to lend a hand to the campaign, installing a bug hotel, hedgehog house and a nestbox around the famous soap village.

Even the grounds of Downton Abbey have been transformed into a home for nature with a wildflower meadow.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said “The response to the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign in its first year has been excellent. It shows the desire that many people have to help the wildlife around them. However, we need even more people to give nature a home.”

“You can do as much or as little as you like. Simple steps such as putting out food or installing a nestbox can make a big difference. You could even go on to provide ponds, hedgerows and insect homes too to really make your home an excellent home for nature.” Outstanding footage of garden birds visiting garden feeders was filmed by Brian Reid in his garden in Cambridgeshire. It shows starlings, goldfinches, greenfinches and house sparrows taking advantage of the extra food provided for them.

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.

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