Feeding the birds - mythbusting

EVER heard that birds don’t need feeding in summer? Or that peanuts aren’t suitable for them? Or that fruit is a no no?

These are just some of the questions the RSPB is asked at this time of year. A member of the RSPB wildlife enquires team said, “At this time of year we get so many calls from people wanting to know what the ‘rules’ are on bird feeding.”

The wildlife charity wants to clear these rules and myths up once and for all.

Birds don’t need feeding in summer: False

In winter, when seeds, berries and insects are in short supply birds often relay on the food supplied for them in gardens and on bird tables. In the summer months there are plenty of food supplies for birds but they will always appreciate the easy option of food left on bird tables and in gardens as adults are busy breeding and endlessly feeding chicks to make sure they are big enough to fend for themselves once the summer is over.

Peanuts are fine for birds: True

Peanuts can be fed to birds they are rich in fat and are popular with tits, greenfinches, house sparrows and siskins. But there are a few things to think about before you leave out peanuts. The first is that salt is toxic to birds so salted peanuts are completely unsuitable. Another is that younger birds could have trouble digesting peanuts because of their size, to avoid this try crushing the peanuts into manageable amounts.

The final warning attached to feeding birds peanuts is they can be high in a natural toxin, which can kill birds, so buy from a reputable dealer to guarantee freedom from aflatoxin.

Bread and milk are good for birds and hedgehogs: False

Many animals are intolerant of the lactose in milk which can lead to diarrhoea, dehydration and death. Milk is iron deficient so in excess can cause dietary imbalance. It is also bad for garden hygiene and the spread of disease as it will readily curdle if left for any length of time.

Whilst bread won’t do birds any harm, it doesn’t offer any nutritional value either and acts as a ‘filler.’ Crumbled up cake or plain biscuits would be more suitable and porridge oats are popular with many birds too.

Fruit is bad for birds: False

Fruit is an excellent supplementary food for many birds, particularly slightly soft apples and pears and soaked fruits. Rotten fruit isn’t as suitable – birds don’t like food that’s past its best anymore than we do!

For more information on what to feed garden birds visit www.rspb.org.uk