Norfolk’s garden birds threatened by ‘luxury’ cost of feed

Garden birds risk starvation this winter due to the 'luxury' cost of bird feed, according to the owner of a Norfolk wildlife attraction.

Bill Jordan, co-owner of Pensthorpe Nature Reserve near Fakenham, said costs had risen steadily in recent years and had now reached an all-time high – more than triple the cost of four years ago.

He said he is concerned the price of feeding birds could discourage people from providing vital supplementary food sources in their gardens throughout the winter.

'Over the years, a number of organisations have rallied together to encourage people to feed birds in their gardens at home and, as a result, the number of garden species have increased,' said Mr Jordan. 'However, there is a serious threat that all this could be undone if people reduce or, worse still, stop feeding birds altogether.

'What's sad is that we've already noticed a small decline in the purchase of bird food and feeders and worry this may continue into winter. The price is becoming so prohibitive that it's at the stage where people are likely to make the decision to seriously cut back, particularly with domestic food and utility prices also on the increase.

'Feeding birds is such a wonderful thing to do and offers hours of enjoyment. Therefore we need more people to realise this before bird feeding becomes a 'luxury' hobby.'

Pensthorpe's suggestions for cutting the cost of bird-feeding include:

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- Plant sunflower seeds, as they provide food for insects in summer and large seed heads for the winter.

- If you plant a hedge, use a wildlife mix including species such as hawthorn, which has berries.

- Soak scraps of brown bread overnight and add shredded suet, sultanas or pieces of apples.

- Drain bacon fat into a plastic bowl before it settles and add it to other homemade bird-food recipes.

Mr Jordan's warning coincides with the RSPB's national Feed the Birds Day, which takes place today to remind people that wild birds need extra help to survive the winter months.

Erica Howe, communications manager for the RSPB East of England, said: 'You don't have to buy food specially for the birds, you can use what you have in your cupboards.

'Halloween and Christmas is a time we all become quite indulgent with our food habits and we are often around big families, so it is a perfect opportunity to use our waste food in a way which helps garden birds.

'Pastry crumbs are great – Christmas cake is perfect – and cold jacket potatoes are a favourite. They also love really mild grated cheese and things like windfall fruits and apples make a perfect snack for blackbirds and song thrushes.'

For more information, visit www.pensthorpe.com or www.rspb.org.uk/feedthebirds.

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