Watch the birdies... and feed them too

A ffieldfare forages for berries
A ffieldfare forages for berries
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Despite it being a bumper year for berries, the RSPB is asking people to carry on putting out food for garden birds because some of the fruits aren’t yet ripe enough to eat.

The charity is warning people not to think that the mild weather and fruit-filled shrubs mean garden birds will be able to get enough natural food to sustain them.

And with falling temperatures and the chance of frost, putting out extra food for the birds in your garden will become even more important.

Ian Hayward, from the RSPB’s wildlife enquiries team, said: “Many people think that you don’t need to put out food for birds during mild weather, and when there appears to be lots of berries available.

“However, not all of the berries out now are ripe enough for birds to eat – most won’t be taken until after the first frosts, and ivy berries won’t start forming until much later in winter – so it’s still important to supplement the natural food with things like seed mixes, mealworms and leftovers from your kitchen.

“A number of birds that visit our gardens at this time of year are migrants that have flown here from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to spend the winter, so they have a lot of refuelling to do.”

As well as feeding birds, the RSPB is asking people to help the wildlife in their gardens in other ways too.

Ian said: “This is a great time of year to do all sorts of jobs to give nature a home in your outside space. You can plant bulbs ready to attract bees and other insects next summer; build or buy a hedgehog shelter, ready for them to hibernate in; dig a pond or tidy up your existing one; or put up nest boxes in time for next spring.”

But for those who don’t fancy the hard work, there’s a good excuse. “Holding off on pruning your hedges is a great way of helping wildlife without actually having to do anything,” said Ian. “Leaving them until around February next year means the berries can be eaten throughout the winter.”

The RSPB has launched a campaign to help tackle the crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. Giving Nature a Home is urging the nation to provide a place for wildlife in their gardens and outside spaces.

The launch of the campaign comes after 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the ground-breaking State of Nature report revealing 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied, including starlings, hedgehogs, some butterflies and ladybirds, have declined over recent decades.

Visit www.rspb.org.uk/homes for a free Giving Nature a Home starter guide, and share pictures, tips and ideas with others. You can also find out more about what the RSPB is doing to give nature a home in the wider countryside.