Kat Jones, RSPB Scotland’s Public Affairs Manager in South and West Scotland, looks at the importance of feeders for birds during the colder months.
Helping our birds through the winter
The weather may be chilly and the evenings dark, but, for me, this is the time of year when I look forward to seeing the bright and colourful birds that come to my feeder. Chaffinches and blue tits are just gorgeous when you see them close up and, since an experience I had last week, I have resolved to get down to the RSPB Shop for Nature and get myself a feeder to stick to my window so I can get a really good view.
Last week I was walking up a road close to my home in Glasgow when I heard a tinkling sound like tiny bells, looked up and saw a lime-tree full of goldfinches and siskins. They were flying back and forth from two feeders filled with seed that were attached to the window of a top floor tenement flat.
There were so many I kept loosing count but I reached at least 30. As I stood in wonder looking at the birds, someone emerged from the main door of the tenement and it happened to be an old work colleague (and ornithologist - surprise surprise). I never get goldfinches and siskins in my garden and so asked him the secret to the twinkling and tinkling flocks of finches. His tip was: “I always keep my feeders topped up, and one of the feeders is for nyjer seed.”
Now if there is one thing that needs a New Year resolution from me, it is to keep my feeders topped up. Birds need to know where food is to be found in winter. It’s a tough time of year for birds and food sources are scarce. The longer birds need to stay out foraging, the more energy they use up and the more at risk they are from predation.
A researcher at the University of Glasgow who I have been working with recently, Ross MacLeod, explained to me that, when the nights are long, birds need more energy to survive the long night. He is looking into how birds decide how much fat to store: the fatter the bird, the more likely they are to be able to survive the night and the slower they are to get away from predators. If birds know they have ready access to food they can risk staying a little slimmer and stay agile.
So I had better get my New Year Resolution sorted out soon, it’s nearly the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on 24-25 January when people all over Scotland and the rest of the UK will be spending an hour recording the wildlife in their gardens and I want to be ready!
Sign up for the Big Garden Birdwatch and discover what food and feeders different birds prefer here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/