Video: Your daily guide to the Top 10s for Christmas: Tips for feeding the birds at Xmas
- Credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com
Remember there's not only your own family to feed this Christmas, plenty of wildlife is relying on a free breakfast too.
As the temperature goes down and the Christmas lights go up, we're thinking about finding the perfect presents and hosting meals with loved ones who may be flocking from the far corners of the country.
The hosting need not stop at the back door, as throughout the winter wildlife is flocking to our gardens hunting for their own festive feast.
As the countryside cupboards grow bare, our gardens and parks become a crucial source of food, water and shelter for our favourite garden wildlife.
There are some really simple things we can do to help garden wildlife at this time of year, and the more wildlife we attract the more we'll spot during the RSPB's national Big Garden Birdwatch in January!
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The RSPB advises putting out food and water on a regular basis in autumn and winter. In severe weather, feed twice daily if possible, in the morning and early afternoon.
Birds need high energy (high fat) foods during the cold winter weather to maintain their fat reserves to survive the frosty nights.
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Adjust the quantity given to the demand, and clear away uneaten food around the feeders. Once a feeding routine is established, try not to change it as the birds become used to it.
What to feed
Bird seed mixtures – the better mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds, and peanut granules.
Black sunflower seeds – better than striped ones, as they have higher oil content.
Nyjer seeds – small and black with high oil content.
Peanuts – rich in fat and popular with tits, greenfinches, house sparrows, nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers, robins and siskins, don't use salted or roasted peanuts. Peanuts can be high in a natural toxin, which can kill birds, so buy from a reputable dealer.
Bird cake and food bars – if sold in nylon mesh bags, always remove the bag before putting the fat ball out as the soft mesh can trap and injure birds. Make your own by mixing melted suet or lard with seeds, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal, cheese and cake.
Live foods and other insect foods – mealworms are relished by robins and blue tits.
Cooking fat – fat from cooking is bad for birds; they can contain meat juices which destroy the waterproofing and insulating qualities of birds' feathers. Plus it may be salty and contain bacteria. Lard and beef suet on their own are fine as they are pure fat.
Polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils – unsuitable for all birds.
Dog and cat food – meaty tinned food is acceptable. Dry biscuits, unless soaked, are not recommended.
Milk and coconut – milk is not suitable, although mild grated cheese is fine. Use fresh coconut only.
Rice and cereals – use cooked rice but uncooked porridge. Breakfast cereal can be offered in small quantities.
Mouldy and stale food – some moulds can cause respiratory infections in birds.
Get ready for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 25 and 26 January 2014
This is the world's biggest garden wildlife survey and last year almost 600,000 people counted the birds in their garden.
This year, for the first time, participants are being asked to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gardens too.
For more information and to take part visit www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch
Head back tomorrow to see day two of our Top 10s for Christmas guides which will be: Top 10 places to see Santa.