WinterRobinAs the weather cools, we tend to increase the amount of time we spend indoors, wrapped up warm and with the central heating turned on. Wild birds don’t have this luxury and as the temperatures drop to freezing or below, they really do have to use their survival skills to get through.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not the cold itself that birds struggle with. Covered with numerous layers of down, they are very nicely insulated. And birds that have recently migrated to the UK from the Arctic will find the conditions pleasantly mild in comparison.

The real problem that wild birds encounter during the winter months is finding enough food to ensure they can build up and sustain the fat supplies necessary to keep them going. The birds have even more difficulty in snow and ice, which prevents them from being able to find natural foods, or for water birds, forces them away from rivers and lakes.WinterBlueTit

Garden feeding stations, with regular supplies of high-energy wild bird seed and accessible fresh water, can prove a lifeline for birds. Areas where the weather is milder and food is easier to find will see a rise in numbers of birds. Those with feeding stations in their gardens may see an increase in the number of greenfinches, chaffinches and other small birds frequenting them, attracted by wild bird seed, scraps and other nourishing treats.

Birds may change the way they behave during very cold weather. It becomes a delicate balancing act between conserving precious energy and eating adequate amounts of food sufficiently quickly. In the winter, goldcrests, blue tits and other small birds must consume about 30% of their body weight during daylight hours in order to ensure they have enough fat reserves to last them overnight. Jays and other hoarders get ready for winter in autumn by preparing stashes of food they can return to.WinterBlueTit2

Many types of wild bird instinctively group together when the weather is bad. By cuddling up with each other at night, often on top of centrally heated buildings, they can conserve that all-important body heat. Staying together also gives them a greater chance of finding food.

Placing a feeder in your garden will make a big difference to birds in your area. Providing some wild bird seed and fresh water each day will attract an array of birds for you and your friends and family to observe and have fun identifying.

For Free Feeding Advice Contact us today on 01469 577007 to place your order.

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Are Garden Birds in Decline?

There will always be variations in wild bird populations throughout the year. This is because different species respond to natural events, such as the weather, in different ways. However, there does seem to be a pattern of decline, for which there are various reasons.

The cold is one of the biggest problems for birds. The resulting lack of food can lead to starvation, especially for the smaller species such as robins, blue tits and wrens. The availability of food in May and June then has an effect on the numbers of chicks surviving to fledge.

Another example of how weather conditions can influence bird numbers is seen in the blue tit population. Blue tits require a source of moth caterpillars in order to successfully raise a brood. However, unless spring proves dry and sunny, the supply of caterpillars can be low, with the knock-on effect being reduced breeding success.

On the other hand, blackbirds need wet weather to encourage earthworms to venture up to the surface. Dry, warm weather will dry out the soil and force the earthworms deeper underground, beyond where the blackbirds can reach them. With limited access to earthworms, feeding their chicks can be difficult.

These are just a few examples of the ways in which different birds react to different conditions. Poor breeding one year will obviously have an impact on the numbers of birds the following year. It can then take two or three years for a recovery to occur.

Often people may notice that they are getting fewer smaller species of bird in their gardens, which instead may be dominated by larger birds such as magpies and pigeons. This is due to the fact that magpies and pigeons are better able to adapt to changing conditions than some of the smaller birds. They can also intimidate other birds, which will go then elsewhere rather than compete for wild bird seed from feeders and tables or natural food stocks.

Sparrows, especially house sparrows, have been declining rapidly in number across many areas of the UK. This is believed to be the result of some significant changes in farming methods. It is thought there may be 60% fewer house sparrows today compared to numbers recorded in the 1970s. As this particular species of sparrow is one of just a few types of bird happy to live near people, this is now considered an issue of extreme concern. Research indicates that it may again be down to lack of suitable food, and people are encouraged to put out year-round supplies of wild bird seed to help counteract the problem.

Fewer swallows are also being recorded in the UK. It would appear that this decrease in their numbers is due to changes in their natural breeding grounds. As older buildings are modernised or converted, sites suitable for nesting become harder for swallows to find. The decline may also be affected by the diminishing availability of insects which swallows feed to their chicks.

There are many ways people can help to halt the decrease in wild bird populations. Making gardens more wildlife friendly is one way. Offering food such as wild bird seed all year round is another.

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Grouse Game Birds

Grouse are game birds which are medium to large in size. Their diet typically consists of seeds, buds and shoots. There are four types of grouse found in the UK.

Capercaillie

Capercaillie are very large woodland grouse. They are ground feeders, but also source wild bird food such as shoots in trees. They can be found in Scotland in the pinewood forests, as well as in more commercialised areas such as plantations of conifers.

The capercaillie populations in the United Kingdom are in rapid decline. Unfortunately, this type of grouse is now at a very high risk of extinction, despite having previously rallied. As such, the species has now been placed on the Red List for Wild British Birds.

Red Grouse

Smaller then the capercaillie, the red grouse is a game bird of medium size, recognisable by its plumpish body, hook-tipped bill and relatively short tail. The red grouse is a red-brown colour and has pale feathers which cover its feet and legs.

Red grouse are resident in the UK throughout the year and choose breeding sites in the uplands of the north and west. They tend not to travel very far from their birthplace and search for local supplies of wild bird food, particularly cowberry, cranberry and bilberry.

As with the capercaillie, the population of red grouse is in decline. This is thought to be connected to the reduced number of areas of heather moorland, as well as the introduction various diseases to which birds are prone.

Ptarmigan

This game bird is plump and just a little bigger than the grey variety of partridge. The ptarmigan’s colour is dependent upon the season. In winter its feathers grow completely white, except for its black eye patch and tail. The summer coat is a mix of brown, grey and black, with white wings and underbelly.

The ptarmigan reside and breed in the Scottish Highlands, choosing the highest mountains. They dislike moving away from their chosen breeding sites, but may migrate to the edges of the forests when the weather is particularly cold.

Black Grouse

As its name suggests, the black grouse is completely black except for a red wattle across the eye and a distinctive white stripe on each wing, which can be seen when they are in flight. Their lyre-shaped tail feathers can be spread out and lifted to display white under-feathers. Females are smaller and brown and grey, with notched tails.

There has been a significant decrease in numbers of black grouse, mainly due to the loss of suitable habitat. Despite some success following habitat management, the black grouse is currently also on the Red List.

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Why Leftover Cooking Fat Is Bad for Wild Garden Birds

The RSPCA, the RSPB and other animal charities continue to urge people not to offer garden birds their leftover cooking fat. A very common misconception is that this fat residue is good for wild birds. However, is it in fact dangerous for a number of reasons.

Firstly, even after it has cooled, cooking fat will not harden. The risk therefore is that the birds’ feathers will become smeared with it, which will interfere with their ability to remain insulated. Furthermore, the waterproofing qualities can also be affected. In short, unless its feathers are clean and dry a bird will not survive the cold weather, so a layer of grease from cooking fat will almost certainly prove a death sentence.

Another reason not to feed wild birds with leftover cooking fat is that it will invariably be mixed with meat juices and other cooking products. It takes remarkably little time for this mixture to become a host for bacteria such as salmonella. A combination of the cold and naturally depleted energy and defence levels means exposure to such bacteria can prove fatal for the bird.

Additionally, the potentially high levels of salt contained within the fat after the cooking process also present a danger. Salt is toxic for birds and can be catastrophic for their health.

Having said this, putting suitable food out for wild birds is important, especially during the colder months. For the smaller birds especially, doing so really can be vial to their survival.

There are many different types of foods that can benefit garden birds. For example, homemade fat balls can be prepared using pure fats such as suet and lard and mixed with wild bird food. Fruitcake, biscuit and pastry crumbs are popular and other leftovers such as mild cheese, cooked and uncooked rice, potatoes and fruit are great for providing the birds with some extra energy. Cereals and uncooked porridge are enjoyed by a variety of species. It is also possible to buy wild bird food mixes to suit local birds.

Feeding stations should be kept clean and fresh water supplied daily. Remember not to put out too much food at once as anything left over may quickly turn mouldy or stale. Some types of mould can cause respiratory problems in birds and stale food is a prime breeding ground for bacteria.

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When Should You Feed Wild Birds?

Most people know that wild birds benefit from a supply of wild bird seed in the winter months. However, birds are often faced with shortages at other times of the year too. Therefore providing food for them all year round will ensure wild birds have a better chance of survival.

Autumn and Winter
In the colder months of autumn and winter it is important to supply food regularly. During periods of really severe weather, it may be necessary to put food out twice a day, in the morning and afternoon.

When it is cold, birds need food that is high in fat to provide them with enough energy and reserves of fat to survive overnight in freezing temperatures.

Keep a careful check on how much food is being eaten and adjust your feeding schedule according to demand. Leaving uneaten wild bird food and scraps around feeding stations may attract rats and increase the risks of infection. Once a feeding schedule that works has been established, however, try to keep to a routine. Birds are great timekeepers and will time their visits carefully.

Spring and Summer
In spring and summer, when the weather warms up, it is possible to reduce the amount of food provided. However, food shortages can still occur and during breeding seasons the extra food from bird tables and feeding stations can mean the difference between life and death for young birds.

At this time of year, birds will benefit from a supply of protein-rich foods, especially when they are shedding their feathers. Pinhead oatmeal, grated mild cheese, black sunflower seeds, wax worms and mealworms are all well received. Fruit such as currents, raisins, sultanas, pear, soft apples, grapes and bananas can also be excellent. It is possible to purchase wild bird seed, as well as mixes suitable for insectivorous birds.

It is best to completely avoid bread, fat and peanuts during the breeding seasons, as these foods could harm nestlings. It is also best not to put out fatballs, as these will quickly go off in the heat.

Breeding Seasons
Breeding seasons are timed carefully around the accessibility of natural food. However, if the weather is uncharacteristically cold in the summer, it can lead to a diminished supply of insects for wild birds to eat. Similarly, very dry weather can make earthworms difficult to reach due to the hardened soil. By making a note of the weather, it is possible to predict to some extent when wild birds may be struggling and supply additional food accordingly.

Always make sure the food supplied on bird tables and in feeders is appropriate for chicks during the breeding seasons. If natural food shortages become particularly bad, birds may resort to transporting food from bird tables to the nest itself. This can be hugely detrimental if the food is unsuitable for young birds, as they could easily choke on it. As it is not easy to determine when there is a food shortage on this scale, the best course of action is to avoid supplying any food that could cause problems for young chicks.

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Preparing Nest Boxes

The birds visiting your garden will be starting to think about the nesting season from about January. In order to prepare and attract garden birds, there are a number of things to do.

The first thing you will need to do to attract garden birds is to set up a feeding station and provide wild bird food, if you don’t already.

You will then need to get out the nesting boxes from the previous season and clean them out. It is a good idea to get this job done early, around mid January. However, if you reach March and still haven?t got round to doing this, it won?t be too late, so do still unearth your boxes and give the birds the option to use them.

There are different types of nesting box, but the general idea will be the same when it comes down to cleaning them. You will need to be able to reach into the box. This might mean simply lifting the lid, opening the back or unscrewing a section of the box. If you are thinking about purchasing or making a box, it is a good idea to think about how easy it will be to gain access to the inside of it and make this one of the considerations when choosing your nest box style. Those with a hinged lid work very well because they can be emptied and cleaned very easily. Remember to double-check before you tip the box upside down as there may be a surprise occupant, such as a sleepy dormouse!

Wear gloves when cleaning out nesting boxes. This will enable you to reach in and easily remove old nest material. This will need to be placed in your recycle box or incinerated. Do not put it with your compost, as other birds might use it for new nesting material and this could potentially spread disease.

Use a stiff brush to clean out any additional leftover material. Once you have done this, check the box for mould and if there is none you can site the box as usual. If you do find mould, it will be necessary to give the box a proper clean with mild disinfectant or nest box cleaner. Drilling a few 2 mm holes in the centre and all four corners of the box’s base can prevent mould re-growth. Once this has been done, the box should be left to dry completely before being sited in its usual place. Remember not to place nest boxes too close to feeding stations and wild bird food, as this can get noisy.

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Take a Closer Look at our Wild Birds – Woodpeckers

There are three types of woodpecker found in the United Kingdom. Woodpeckers typically sport bold patterns. They have sharp bills and rigid tails which they can use to prop themselves up with when perching upright. To help them gain a more stable grip, they also have four toes ? two facing back and two forward. They can be attracted to gardens with wild bird food and a variety of grubs and insects.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great spotted woodpeckers are similar in size to blackbirds and are extremely striking because of their black and white plumage. Males have a bold red area behind the head, and the young can be identified by a crown of red.

They will hang off tree trunks and branches and bounce between perches, alerting humans and other animals to their presence with their ‘drumming’ and accompanying loud calls.

Great spotted woodpeckers prefer mature trees and can be seen in woodland, larger gardens and parks. They may be seen all year round, especially attracted by wild bird food at garden feeding stations and bird tables.

Green Woodpecker

The green woodpecker is bigger than both the great spotted woodpecker and the lesser spotted woodpecker.

As its name suggests, the green woodpecker is recognised by its beautiful green under parts. It also has a red cap and a brilliant yellow rump. Males have a black and red moustache.

Green woodpeckers tend to be ground feeders and can be spotted all year round in parks and gardens. They love the short grass, where they can find all sorts of tasty treats ? particularly their favourite ones, which are ants.

As is usual with woodpeckers, breeding takes place in holes they have pecked out of dead wood.

The Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

The lesser spotted woodpecker is smaller than either of the two other species resident in the United Kingdom. As with the great spotted woodpecker, males have a red crown.

The lesser spotted woodpecker prefers to feed higher than its fellow species and will build nests at a greater altitude. It will flutter between branches at the very tops of trees, looking for a variety of insects, spiders and larvae. They prefer open woods, orchards, parks and gardens, and very often the only thing giving away their location are the quiet tapping and accompanying calls.

The lesser spotted woodpecker is mostly found in the south of the UK, with a small number in Yorkshire, Wales and Lancashire. Unfortunately, there are no lesser spotted woodpeckers in Ireland, Scotland or the Isle of Wight. They are most frequently sighted in the spring.

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Take a Closer Look at our Wild Birds – Tits

Tits are small, with short legs and triangular bills. Although territorial during nesting season, tits are sociable, mixing in flocks and regularly frequenting garden feeders.
Six types of tit are commonly seen in gardens around the United Kingdom.

Blue Tit
Probably one of the most easily recognisable birds visiting gardens in the UK, blue tits have a stunning mix of blue, white, yellow and green plumage. Adult birds sport yellow breasts with white cheeks and elegant blue caps. Babies can be identified by their yellow cheeks.

During the winter, whole families of blue tits will flock together with other types of tit, mainly in an effort to find food. It is not unheard of for garden feeding stations supplying wild bird seed to attract 20 or even more blue tits at any given time.

Coal Tit
The coal tit is less colourful than many of its close relatives. With a smart and very distinctive black cap, white neck and grey back, it is nonetheless equally as attractive.
Coal tits have a slimmer bill compared to both great tits and blue tits and as such are able to feed in conifers rather more easily.

Coal tits enjoy visiting gardens and are particularly attracted by peanut feeders, often gathering and storing food to consume at a later date. When food is scarce, they will join forces with other tits, searching in woods and gardens for sustenance.

Crested Tit
The crested tit is recognised by its characteristic white and black crest and the bridled pattern on its face.

Crested tits are very active, swinging from tree trunks and hanging off branches while feeding. They will work hard to root out a variety of invertebrates to eat, as well as pine and other seeds. Crested tits store food where possible, unearthing it in the latter part of winter when supplies have become scarce.

Great Tit
The great tit is the biggest of all the tits found in the United Kingdom. They are extremely eye-catching, with white cheeks and shiny black heads. Although traditionally a wood-dwelling bird, the great tit has adapted well to more urban surroundings and can be spotted often in and around gardens. When in competition at feeding stations, it will readily see off other tits as it eats wild bird seed, especially the smaller species. However, the great tit will happily group together with fellow tits to search for food when necessary.

Marsh Tit
The marsh tit can be identified by its light stomach, darker bib and dark glossy cap. They look very like the willow tit, so much so that until 1897 they were thought to be the same species. The most reliable way to differentiate between the two is to listen to their calls. The marsh tit makes a distinctive sneeze-like sound.

Willow Tit
The willow tit sports an untidy dark bib and a grey-black cap and neck. Unlike marsh tits, they also have a pale section on their wings. A significant decline in their numbers in recent years has led to them being listed as having red or high-priority conservation status. They prefer damp habitats, such as gravel pits, peat bogs and marshes.

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First Class Food for First Time Feeders

A lot of people are interested in bird watching and wish to venture into the rewarding world of bird feeding, but many have no idea about what bird food to provide. This article will address this common issue and will give you all the basics about the types of wild bird seed to make friends with your local birds.

First of all it’s useful to have a pretty good idea about bird seed mixtures to attract a variety of different birds. In general a good seed mixture is said to contain a lot of flaked maize, sunflower seeds and peanut granules. Birds like house sparrows, collared doves, finches, reed buntings and dunnocks are mostly attracted to small seeds like millet. Tits and greenfinches are really big fans of peanuts and sunflower seeds. Pinhead oatmeal is a great solution that many birds would love. Wheat and barley grains are often found in common seed mixtures. They are really good for ground feeding birds like pigeons, doves and pheasants. A seed mixture containing split peas, beans and dried rice are better avoided because only the large species can manage to eat them while dry. Budget food sellers add these to cheap food mixtures just for the sake of bulking it up but it simply would be a waste and here at Wild Bird Direct we definitely don’t subscribe to that approach, quality is our priority. Our supplies offer bird food packed with goodness, energy and nutrition. Take our dried mealworms for example; we believe they really are the perfect alternative to live food! Now let’s consider some other popular wild bird seed.

Black sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts are available throughout the year and are more popular than peanuts in a lot of regions. The oil content of these seeds makes them tasty, satisfying and highly beneficial in a balanced bird diet. Niger seed are tiny and black in colour and are popularly known for their very high oil content. A pin-hole feeder is required to safely and cleanly serve up this foodie treat, which you can pick up at a great price online from our seed feeder selection. Peanuts are also rich in fat and are a very popular solution among tits, greenfinches and house sparrows. Crushed peanuts could attract robins and dunnocks. Make sure however that you don’t use salted or dry roasted peanuts since these may be severely toxic to certain birds.

Food like fat balls and suet blocks are excellent cold climate foods. Foods supplied in a nylon mesh bag will need to be removed from the packaging before being serving since the soft mesh could trap and injure birds. At Wild Bird Direct we pride ourselves on the high end ingredients, not poor quality waste products, which go into making a delicious and nutritious feast for our feathered companions.

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Food Satisfaction with the Right Feeder

There are so many types of bird feeders you could find on the modern market. The choices of food  and food mixes are wide and they are made targeting the wide variety of birds. Therefore in picking the best feeder the first thing you have to consider is the types of birds you want to feed.

There are several features that make a good feeder. First of all, because the bird feeders are going to be placed in the outside environment, we have to make sure that the feeder is completely weatherproof and stable. The next thing is about keeping the seeds as dry as possible because water and moisture can quickly spoil the bird food. There is also a chance that the water may cause it to sprout. This could lead some more complications like fungal and bacterial growth. Placing the feeder in the right location is also very important and there are a number of considerations you have to make. For example, it is ideal to keep feeders at least three feet away from a windows because birds can mistakingly collide with the clear or reflective surface and cause themselves considerable harm.

Different types of wild bird seed attracts different kinds of birds. Having a number of different types of bird feeders would make it possible for you to attract a wide variety of birds. It is important that you put the proper mixes of bird food in the feeders because birds also have specific tastes, and if you offer certain seeds that the breed you wish to attract does not like they will discard the seeds and not return. Not only it would be a waste but it also would get spoiled and eventually decay making things very unpleasant.

There are several types of bird feeders which include tray platform feeders, hanging feeders, peanut feeders, suet feeders and niger seed feeders. Each of these types of bird feeders have their own advantages and disadvantages. The tray platform feeder for example could attract a lot of seed eating birds like pigeons, starlings and house sparrows. The downside is that this feeder could accumulate a lot of water and has no protection against rain or snow. Water accumulation could lead to a number of complications such as seeds sprouting or fungal growth so be vigilant and have concern for your bird visitors wellbeing. Provide fresh water and bird food to keep them healthy, happy and coming back for more!

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