Feed the birds in your Kent garden

PUBLISHED: 20:40 19 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:50 20 February 2013

Feed the birds in your Kent garden

Feed the birds in your Kent garden

Summer may already seem a distant memory, but there are still plenty of reasons to get out into your garden, not least to help wildlife through the coming months

Feed the birds in your Kent garden

Summer may already seem a distant memory, but there are still plenty of reasons to get out into your garden, not least to help wildlife through the coming months

To get you started, the RSPB is inviting you to take part in Feed the Birds Day on 30 October. The event is timed to coincide with the clocks going back and is a reminder to spare a thought for the wildlife that needs your help to survive the winter.

Why birds need your help

Unlike you or I, keeping warm is not the biggest concern for wild birds in winter: they are equipped with several layers of fluffy, insulating down to trap heat. Their biggest challenge is finding enough food to build and maintain adequate fat supplies to store on their body and burn for energy.

This becomes even more difficult in hard weather when snow and ice hide once easily available natural food. The ground becomes too hard for birds like thrushes and lapwings to probe and natural food like berries, acorns and seeds is buried and water birds may be forced to leave iced-over lakes and rivers in search of freshwater.

The smallest birds, like blue tits and goldcrests, have to effectively feed throughout the hours of daylight in winter and consume a vast quantity of food - as much as 30 per cent of their body weight - to make sure they build the necessary fat reserves to get them through the long, cold nights.

Feeding birds

Thankfully, feeding birds in the garden is a popular activity: more than half of adults in the UK do it. That's a lot of extra help for the birds. The food you provide could be a real lifesaver as many birds will come into your garden in search of vital supplies.

As well as blackbirds and song thrushes you may even see a few more unusual visitors like redwings, fieldfares and bramblings seeking sanctuary from the harsher countryside.

Feed the Birds Day gives you the perfect opportunity to fill up your feeders, put out fresh water and then sit back to enjoy the influx of birds to your garden. Birds will become dependent on the food you supply, so it is important to make sure your feeders are kept topped up to prevent them from having a wasted visit.

Gardening for wildlife

Supplementary feeding can't provide all the natural proteins and vitamins that adult and young birds need. However, there are lots of things you can do in your garden to provide a source of natural foods as well, through well-managed lawns, shrub and flowerbeds.

Now is a good time to think about putting in plants that are good for wildlife such as a berry bearing shrub or fruit tree. When they mature, rowan, holly and apple trees will be a great source of food for birds such as blackbirds and thrushes, while robins and starlings will feast on the insects that thrive on them.

If you plan ahead now and introduce insect-attracting plants you will also be helping the birds come springtime. House sparrows, for instance, rely on a healthy supply of insects to raise their young.

Over the last 25 years, house sparrows have declined by more than 60 per cent and its thought a shortage of this insect food may be to blame. Planting nectar-rich flowers and shrubs may help house sparrows successfully raise their young.

If you provide both natural and supplementary food, your garden will be visited year-round by a host of different birds.

You can get lots of ideas on how to manage your home and garden for the benefit of wildlife from the RSPBs Homes for Wildlife.

You can register online, tell us what your garden is like, and you'll receive tailored advice and newsletters. Visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/hfw/

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