Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Gardening

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Gardening

Article excerpt

THEY are as important to the wildlife garden as butter is to bread, not only providing interest to budding bird watchers, but helping to keep unwanted pests such as slugs and snails under control.

As their natural habitat continues to disappear, it is more important than ever to feed the birds during the winter months.

"In some cases keeping feeders topped up can mean the difference between life and death, especially for some of the smaller birds who lose heat from their bodies extremely quickly when it's really cold," says Gemma Rogers, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

But there are so many different feeders and seed types on the market, it's difficult to know which are the best.

"There are a lot of nasty feeders out there which can trap beaks and feet," says Gemma, "so you need to go to a reputable supplier. And be aware that some feeders are ridiculously cheap for a reason."

Never put out the nylon mesh bags containing fat as birds can become trapped in them. Go for steel mesh feeders and provide a mix of seeds to attract different birds.

Birds require high energy, high fat foods during the cold winter weather to maintain their body reserves to survive the frosty nights. Finches are especially grateful for seeds in late winter and early spring.

In summer they love black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, soaked sultanas, raisins and currants, mild grated cheese, mealworms, waxworms, mixes for insectivorous birds and good seed mixtures without loose peanuts, on which their young could choke.

Never put out loose peanuts, dry hard foods, large chunks of bread, or fats during the spring or summer months. Make sure you buy 'safe nuts' from reputable outlets and offer them in cages. Peanuts will attract Blue Tits, great tits, woodpeckers and even robins if you crush the peanuts, niger seeds will encourage finches and siskins, but the more variety of food you have, the larger the range of birds you are likely to attract. …

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