Winter feeders for birds
How can I help them?
Wild birds are usually able to survive the cold winter temperatures, but sometimes lack of food can become a problem even for them. Here some simple actions that we can undertake in order to help them:
1. When do they need to be fed?
They need to be fed only during winter months, especially when the snow covers the ground and it turns icy. The best thing to do is to give them food during the morning or in the evening – that helps them to go through long winter nights.
2. How much food do we need to give them?
It is necessary to give them a reasonable amount of food and to avoid creating a place for mass nourishment. The concentration of a big number of birds in a confined space can lead to fights between birds and to the risk of diffusing diseases through the accumulation of excrements. It is better to place the food in small decentralized places.
3. How do we have to feed them?
Our birds are not omnivorous: leftovers are not to be put in the birdseed box. The wrong food can be harmful for animals – they can even die. For those birds, like chaffinches and sparrows, that like eating seeds, there are some good sunflower seed and hempseed mixes. Wheat grains – found in birdseed at a reasonable price – are eaten only by pigeons and sparrows. Insectivores and birds hungry for tender food like the blackbird, the robin and the great tit, eat apples, raisins and chopped walnuts. But during winter they also eat grains. Suspended spheres with food for tits are appreciated by them. Food leftovers left on the ground are happily eaten by blackbirds, robins and chaffinches, sparrows and other granivores. Many birds also like to rummage through the manure (turn the top layer).
Little houses for birdseed
The house for birdseed has to be placed in a way that birds are safe from cats. It has to be hung high enough or built on a pole. It is necessary to choose a visible place, in order to prevent cats from going there unnoticed. The most adequate little house for birdseed is the one that allows birds to sit on a pole and doesn’t allow them to enter in the birdseed. The birdseed needs to remain dry, therefore it doesn’t have to be outdoor. Otherwise it makes mold and is soiled by excrements (pathogens).
Birds need drinkable water also during the winter period and sometimes they take a bath to clean their plumage. A water source in the shape of a bath for birds needs always to be kept clean in order to avoid the spreading of bacteria. The shore has to be flat, only in this way birds cannot drown in the pond.
We strongly advise you not to feed waterbirds. Ducks and swans have enough food in winter. When a body of water freezes, they go to another one where they can find food. The monotonous bread-based diet can cause malnutrition. The gathering of many animals in places where food is provided gives rise to tiring fights and hygiene issues.
Normally healthy pigeons find enough food in our cities and towns even in the winter period, giving them more food outside winter months could lead to an excessive reproduction of pigeons and often, as a consequence, to a worsening of their living conditions. A complete information sheet on this subject is available from the SAP.
Rules valid all year round
A lasting protection of wild animals can be done through the creation and maintenance of varied and suitable habitats for birds. For this reason, it is important to buy products that come from farmers managed in ways close to nature, for example products with the Bio-Suisse Bud label or either with the IP farmers’ Terrasuisse sustainability label. A garden planned and managed in a natural way, without toxic chemicals is the fundamental key to a healthy habitat. If in our garden there are hedges, lawns with local plants and a manure pit, our birds have enough to eat. Piles of branches, dry walls and stone heaps are good places where birds can hide, make their nest and find food. With this kind of habitat, we can help our feathered friends to survive and to raise their babies – in this way they will be happy all year round.
These practices were taken from an article of the Swiss Animal Protection ITA.
- Useful Principles ITA (PDF - 0,09MB)