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Top tips from the RSPB

PUBLISHED: 15:00 03 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:00 03 January 2018

Great tit Parus major, December

Great tit Parus major, December


Are we killing garden birds with kindness? Three things not to do for our feathered friends in winter

A few of the birds coping with this morning's snowfall A few of the birds coping with this morning's snowfall

We all know we need to keep bird feeders and baths topped up over the winter months to ensure our winged friends weather the storm of winter.

But there are some things we shouldn’t be doing, which can risk a bird’s health, and in some cases lead to death. Here’s the RSPB’s advice on what not to do.

1. Don’t put out fat balls in netting

Fat balls may be a great energy source for birds, but not when they’re housed in nylon netting, which is often used for easy hanging but can end up trapping birds’ feet or beaks, leading to injury or even death. If you buy fat balls, remove them from any nets and put them in a safer, bespoke hanging feeder. or leave them loose on a bird table.

2. Don’t give them food poisoning

Foods to avoid which are dangerous for birds include cooking fat from the roast, or Christmas turkey mixed with meat juices during cooking to make a runny, greasy mixture. This sticks to feathers and stops them from being waterproof. It is often full of salt too, which is toxic to birds. Other foods to avoid are dessicated coconut, which may swell once inside a bird and cause death, cooked porridge oats or milk, which can damage a bird’s gut.

3. Don’t put out too much food

If food turns mouldy or stale on your bird table, you are probably putting out too much for the birds to eat in one day. Many moulds are harmless, but some can cause respiratory infections in birds, so it’s best to be cautious and avoid mouldy food entirely. Always remove any stale or mouldy food promptly, as it provides a breeding ground for parasites and bacteria.

Keep bird tables, feeders and surrounding areas clean, washing them regularly (ideally, using a 5% disinfectant solution) and move feeding stations to a new area every month to prevent droppings accumulating underneath.

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