Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Feeding The Birds

File:Robin in the snow 3 (4250400943).jpg

Source for this image here.

It was minus 13 this morning outside - and not much more than that, indoors, first thing!  Everywhere looked so beautiful, snow covering every single surface outside.  Every gatepost, telephone wire, chimney pot and washing line was coated in shimmering white.  Jack Frost has visited and decorated everything with winter sparkle.  It is so breathtakingly lovely - even more so, when viewed against the backdrop of a sunrise - pink, orange, gold and red.  God's treasures - for all of us to enjoy.
I always feel sorry for the birds outside, when it is bitterly cold.  While our six cockatiels are safe and cosy indoors, the outside birds have to struggle and fend for themselves.  In very cold weather, little birds can need to eat as much as three times their own bodyweight in food each day because they use up so much energy keeping warm.  That's a lot of food - even for a wee robin, like the one pictured above!

I always keep our birds' leftovers in winter, to feed the garden birds that live in the areas near our home.  First thing in the morning when Papa Bear and I walk through the park, I take the seed and other scraps to feed them with.  There are places around the park where it's safe to feed birds, and several other people do the same as we do.  This week, although Papa Bear hasn't had to go to work, we've still been getting up to go for our walk through the park - it's so beautiful in there at the moment with the snow, and it's good for us to get outside and enjoy the fresh air.  And it's also good for the birds to get their food!

As well as seed I usually take bread scraps (I don't give our pet birds bread very often - it must be very fresh or it could carry the aspergillum mould, which can cause fatal illness in parrots and other pet birds that don't have the natural immunity wild birds are born with) as well as bits like bruised fruit, cheese rinds, oats (uncooked) and leftover rice (cooked).  Bits of meat that aren't good for humans to eat are also suitable as are leftover scraps of cat or dog food, if you keep these pets.  Other breakfast cereals are good - they should be provided along with plenty of fresh water.  In very cold, freezing weather like we are experiencing at the moment, it's always a good idea to offer wild birds some fresh water as it can be difficult for them to find this - they will not only drink it, but bathe in it too - vital to their health.  

The needs of wild birds are different to those of our pet birds.  They are adapted to their environment, just as our birds are, and their caloric needs are far, far greater than our sedentary pets!  There's no need to worry about giving them too much to eat - as much as they can have, in the winter and spring.  It's worth remembering though that if you start to make a habit out of feeding wild birds, you should try to keep doing it regularly.  It's not fair to the birds to do it only occasionally and then stop.  And if you want to be able to enjoy seeing lots of different species - and perhaps even their chicks, come the springtime months - then do try to do it often.  We have been leaving food for our neighbourhood birds for a long time now, and it's lovely to see the same blackbird family enjoy the food that we and our neighbours leave for them!  There are also robins, bluetits, finches, magpies, wood pigeons, collared doves, ravens and many, many more - including 2 or 3 species of gull!  They like the bread best, so I try to leave some bigger pieces for them, and feed them away from where the smaller birds go.  I do enjoy watching the wild birds feeding on the food we have brought them.  It makes me feel as if we are doing something to help them through this cold snap - beautiful though it is!

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