Feeding birds in winter

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Insectivores such as the blackbird can be fed fruit, chopped nuts or oatmeal. phInsectivores such as the blackbird can be fed fruit, chopped nuts or oatmeal. photo Marcel Burkhardt

Many people want to feed their birds in winter. For birds, an extra food source is often welcome. However, to prevent this well-intentioned gesture from backfiring, feeding must be done properly.

Sempach. - We humans often think of winter as an uncomfortable time of year, especially when it’s bitterly cold, windy, or snowy. We then think of our feathered friends and decide to help them by offering them food. Then the question of how best to proceed arises again.

When should food be made available?
In times of food shortage, i.e. mainly in the event of continuous snow cover, freezing rain or frost, a subsidiary source of food can be an aid to the survival of passerines.
It is best to refuel in the evening, about two hours before dusk, with enough food to last 24 hours.

How should birds be fed?
Hygiene must be taken into account when feeding birds. The choice of a suitable feeder is of great importance. Since there are pathogens that can be transmitted from one bird to another through droppings, these should not come into contact with the food. For this reason, feeders with narrow bowls or cylindrical feeders are recommended. The mixture of seed and faeces that accumulates under the feeders should be cleaned regularly.
Gatherings of birds around feeders do not go unnoticed, especially by predators like cats. To prevent the well-intentioned provision of food from becoming a last meal, the feeding site should be set up in an open area. In addition, places of refuge such as bushes or trees nearby are important, but at a distance of about two to five meters, so that the birds can keep an overview of their surroundings.

What type of food should be given?
The food should be as close as possible to the birds’ natural means of subsistence. For finches, sparrows and other seed-eating species, mixtures with a high proportion of hemp or sunflower seeds are recommended.
However, feeders are not only frequented by seed-eaters. Frugivores and insectivores, including blackbirds and familiar robins, also visit them. They can be offered apples, grapes, oatmeal or chopped nuts.