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Get stuffed! How to feed your garden birds this Christmas

Last modified: 16 December 2014

Starlings squabbling over food

Image: Kaleel Zibe

Ever wondered what birds eat for Christmas dinner? You might not think it, but those magpies can’t wait to get a hold of your mince pies…

The nights are drawing in and you might have noticed a flurry of activity at your birdfeeder as things get chillier.

Birds need a fatty diet over the winter months to stay warm and snug. Harsh weather can sometimes make it hard to find a hearty meal, with many birds relying on a helping human hand for extra food.

Don’t be fooled by birds that puff their feathers up to keep cosy – under that plumage bird bodies can be incredibly small and often take a lot of effort to maintain. Garden birds such as blue tits, chaffinches and goldcrests need to eat the equivalent of 30 per cent of their bodyweight each day to keep their shivering at bay. That’s a lot of food!

By providing bird feeding stations, you can make all the difference to saving your local wildlife.

So why not share your Christmas dinner this year? Here are our top tips for your leftovers this festive season:

Feed the birds

  • Christmas cake and Christmas pudding are packed full of fruit and fat, making them a perfect treat for wildlife. Unsalted nuts can be a nutritious meal too.
  • Don’t let your cheeseboard go to waste. Robins can’t get enough of this delicious dairy goodness. Mild cheeses such as Cheddar and Wensleydale have a high-fat content and will get birds toasty as they flit from tree to tree.
  • Chop up your leftover roast potatoes. These are a great source of fat and easy for birds to swallow.  

However, not everything should be put out on the lawn...

What to avoid
  • Cooked meats and vegetables can attract vermin to your garden and could also be spied by the neighbourhood cat.
  • Keep that Toblerone to yourself!  Chocolate contains chemicals which are toxic to birds and other animals.
  • Bread holds very little nutritional value for birds and can cause them problems. Save your loaf for turkey sandwiches on Boxing Day!
  • Leftover fat and dripping from your roasting tin are bad for birds, but you can use fats such as lard and raw beef suet to make fat cakes.
For more detailed information on suitable food for birds and other wildlife, visit our website - here

There are lots of things to do at RSPB reserves throughout snowy season. If you’re heading down to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands in Cheshire, this Christmas you can take part in some winter fun. Grab a trail sheet from the centre and see if you can find the Twelve Birds of Burton Mere along the path. Check the website before visiting to check for opening times and recent sightings.

Or, head over to RSPB Fairburn Ings in West Yorkshire, to take part in the Christmas Robin Quiz Trail. All throughout December you can have a family day out with Mr Robin Redbreast – will you know the answers to his festive questions?

Christmas is a time for sharing and giving. So as you tuck into your roasties this Christmas, spare a thought for the birds.

Happy Holidays!

By Jennifer Lane

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