Sunday 17 December 2017

Be careful what food you leave out for the birds

By Jim Hurley - Nature Trail


Very many people feed wild birds and in return enjoy the sights and sounds of the visitors that come to their bird tables. Obviously, one has to be careful to choose high quality, nutritious foods when putting out or buying food.

Some 'special offer' cheap foods may seem like great value but often the reason these are so very cheap is because they are bulked up with wheat that few garden birds can digest apart from Wood Pigeons.

The nutritional value of a bought bird food can be judged in the garden by the numbers of birds the food attracts. Foods that are highly nutritious are gobbled up very quickly; rubbish tends to be treated for what it is.

The nutritional value of a bought bird food can also be judged in the shop by reading the table of contents. 'Mixed Wildbird Seed' is usually suspect unless the contents are itemised.

Black sunflower seed is a highly nutritious and popular food for birds, especially the tits and finches. It has a higher oil level and energy value than the striped-shell variety of sunflower seed, often sold alongside.

Peanuts are the most popular food for garden birds and attract a wide range of species. Be sure to buy from a reputable supplier as mouldy peanuts can kill birds.

Buying from a reputable outlet is always good practice. All of the bird foods supplied by BirdWatch Ireland have been approved by their own garden bird experts and is completely safe to give to your garden birds. And don't forget that when you buy food from BirdWatch Ireland, the birds benefit twice, as all proceeds support their conservation work across Ireland.

Food for wild birds does not have to be purchased; kitchen waste can be ideal. Lumps of suet may be hung out. Meat trimmings, bacon rinds and table scraps will also be eaten gratefully.

Fruit is always popular too. Apples and grapes attract Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Blackcaps. Processed bread is not suitable for wild birds but stale homemade wholemeal bread grated and moistened is wonderful food.

The large 'Fat Balls' that can be bought in pet shops can be homemade by pouring melted fat over bread or cake scraps. This can be made even more nutritious if some seeds, nuts, oatmeal, grated cheese, puppy meal or dried fruits are added. Use 250g of fat per 500g of dry ingredients. Coconut shells and yogurt cartons make suitable moulds.

Wexford People

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