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Feeding birds

Between July and September a large number of typical insectivores leave our region. Species such as the swift, the cuckoo, the golden oriole, the nightingale, the house and the sand martin and the swallow temporarily leave our region because their strict diet doesn’t allow them to survive during the winter.

The search for food is by far the most important occupation of these birds. During autumn and winter the days are very short, which gives them little time to search for food. Moreover, they burn more calories, causing a faster depletion of their fat reserves.

Especially during severely cold periods in which the birds need to have sufficient energy reserves to get through the nights, they can find themselves in a serious predicament. By offering them food you not only keep them in good shape, but you also decrease the amount of energy they have to invest in their search for a meal. 

Frequent misunderstandings

People sometimes think that once you start feeding birds during the winter you can only stop doing so in springtime. Or that if you can not guarantee a continuous supply it is better not to feed at all. Fortunately these assertions are untrue. Feeding tables make life easier for the birds and contribute to their chances of survival during harsh winters. Still, no bird relies on only one food source. In natural circumstances birds have to adapt to the changing food situation and their life depends on finding new food resources fast. Birds don’t look for food just in your garden; they have a fixed route through the neighbourhood. 

When is the best time to start feeding?

The moment to start feeding depends on the region you live in and on the local weather conditions. A general rule is that during the months of October/November it is time to fetch the feeding table from the cellar and to replenish the supply of cereals, seeds and fat balls. 

Which food is best?

During wintertime birds need food that is high in carbohydrates and fat so that they can build vital reserves of body fat. They need these reserves to survive the long, cold nights. A lot of kitchen refuse has a high fat content and is ideal as bird feed: suet, marrowbone, dripping, grated cheese, pork-rind, cake and pastry. To prevent diseases from spreading it is best to feed only cocked meat and bones. Never give the birds dried coconut or uncooked rice because this can swell in their stomach, often with fatal results. That is why it is best to soak dry bread in water before laying it on the feeding table.

In the shop at the Natuurhulpcentrum you can always buy tit balls. These balls are packed with essential seeds, drenched in animal fat. Tits are particularly fond of these, but also robins, short-toed tree creepers, blackbirds and even woodpeckers love to nibble at these treats. No matter where you hang them, they will guarantee a lot of fun bird-watching! 

When to stop feeding?

In former days it was believed that you shouldn’t continue feeding during springtime because birds then would feed the fat or the peanuts to their young, with all its consequences. However, recent studies have shown that to continue feeding during spring will not have any negative effects on the young in the nest.

Where should I place my feeding table?

Don’t place a feeding table right in the sun but on a sheltered spot, preferably near suitable lookouts and thick bushes. Make sure the feeding table is not too close to a fence or a sturdy tree because a cat could be luking on or in it. A small lean-to can prevent the food from getting wet or blown away.

A bird bath also serves a useful purpose during wintertime because drinking-water becomes increasingly important when long-lasting frost closes off other natural resources. You can sometimes observe birds pecking beaks full of snow in order to get enough water down. A shallow dish filled with clean water can serve perfectly as a bird bath. Make sure not to add any additives such as antifreeze, salt or sugar to the water to prevent it from freezing. Stretch a piece of wire gauze over the dish or put a little grid on it so that birds can’t bathe themselves: their feathers would freeze, with all its consequences.

Do you sell feeding balls or feeding tables?

Yes we do. You can go to our e-shop to see which feed and feeding tables we offer. Click here to go to our e-shop.

Can I also help squirrels during wintertime?

We also sell special feeders for squirrels. You can find these in our e-shop. Click here to go to our e-shop. Squirrels quickly get used to pushing the little flap up in order to reach the delicious content. It’s fun to watch and a nice completion of their diet during wintertime!

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