Don’t kill our feathered friends with kindness this Christmas

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A major conservation charity is urging people to lay on a festive feast for garden birds this Christmas but to avoid leaving potentially fatal leftovers.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) warns cooked turkey fat is extremely dangerous to our feathered friends.

Experts at the RSPB say the residue from the roasting tin remains soft even when cold and it can easily smear into garden visitors’ feathers, ruining their insulating and water-proofing.

Grease can make feathers virtually impossible to clean and dry – essential if birds are to survive the winter.

The charity also warns that flavourings to roasts – such as salt – are also toxic to birds.

Turkey fat can go rancid quickly when left in a warm kitchen as it becomes a perfect breeding ground for food-poisoning bacteria and salmonella.

Richard James, RSPB wildlife advisor, said: “It’s extremely important that people don’t put the fat from roasting tins outside for birds this Christmas. Although it may seem like a good thing to do, you could be killing them with kindness.

“Often people believe they’re helping birds by pouring the fat from Christmas joints on to bird tables or mixing it with bird seed, but this is a completely different kind of fat and could have disastrous effects.

“Only pure fats such as lard and suet should be used to make homemade fat balls which will give birds the energy and nutrients to survive the winter cold.”

However, the RSPB is encouraging people to put on a festive feast for visiting garden birds, as additional feeding at this time of the year can be the difference between life and death.

Richard added: “Bird seed table mix, suet balls and other nibbles are great at providing birds with the energy and nutrients that are so important for them.

“Additionally, there is no harm in slipping in a few festive treats such as Christmas cake crumbs, mince pie pastry crumbs and broken biscuits.

“And if you do find yourself with a little extra time over the holidays and want to cook up a festive feast for your garden birds from scratch, then the RSPB’s website has a selection of recipes you can follow.”

Providing shelter for birds at this time of the year is also hugely beneficial. Carefully planting dense hedges or putting up a next box provides the perfect spot for birds to roost in and shelter from the weather.

Birds often make use of boxes used for nesting in the spring to shelter from inclement weather.

At a glance guide to feeding birds:

  • Offer them a variety of food, especially fatty food high in protein – a mix of peanut, wild bird seeds and sunflower hearts would be ideal;
  • Feed them regularly, preferably every day – birds will become accustomed to a constant and reliable source to food;
  • Don’t use plastic net feeders, especially those on fat balls as birds can get caught up in the mesh;
  • Don’t forget your ground-feeding birds – birds like dunnocks and robins prefer to take their food from the floor;
  • Don’t let your bird baths freeze over – a supply of clean fresh water is vital for birds to survive and thrive over the winter.

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