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Beast from the East could spell doom for garden birds at crucial time

  • The Met Office is predicting ‘exceptionally cold’ weather to hit the UK this week.
  • After benefiting from mild January weather, birds will struggle to deal with the cold snap, which comes at a crucial time as they prepare for the nesting season.
  • RSPB is asking people to give birds a helping hand in the icy conditions by topping up their garden feeders, filling up their bird baths and providing shelter.

With the Met Office forecasting ‘exceptionally cold’ temperatures for most of the UK this week, the RSPB is asking people to think about their garden birds by topping up garden feeders, putting out fresh water and providing shelter.

After benefiting from mild January conditions, which saw temperatures reach 15°C in parts of southern England, birds will now struggle to deal with the cold snap, which comes at a crucial time when they need extra energy. Prolonged periods of cold weather leave birds vulnerable as natural food sources become harder to come by and water sources freeze over.

At this time of year, birds are starting to think about finding a mate and building nests to raise a family, which means they need plenty of food and water.

To keep their energy up during the colder months, the best way to help garden birds is by providing them with a variety of food, but fatty food will be especially helpful. For example, fat balls or homemade bird cakes, which only take a few minutes to make and can be a great children’s activity, are perfect for your feathered friends. These can be made cheaply with kitchen scraps and lard. If you prefer, seeds, fruits or dried mealworms are also among birds’ favourite snacks.

Another vital support for vulnerable birds is fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finding sources of water can be hard for birds when there’s been a frost, but with a simple trick you can help to keep a patch of water ice-free. The RSPB recommends floating a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water as a light breeze will stop an area of water from freezing.

Finally, providing shelter from the harsh weather is extremely important. Putting up a nestbox will give birds a great place to roost in and shelter from the elements before the warmer spring arrives.

Claire Thomas, RSPB Wildlife Advisor, said: “After enjoying the warmer conditions throughout January many of our favourite garden birds such as starlings, house sparrows, blue tits and blackbirds will be shocked by the sudden cold snap. Birds will be desperately searching for food, water and shelter to survive.

“You can make a real difference to birds in your garden and improve their chances of surviving the harsh weather the Beast from the East will bring and successfully making it to breeding season. Birds don’t need much but by providing food, a supply of unfrozen water and somewhere to shelter from the elements, you will be rewarded with great views of wildlife in your back garden.”

Grahame Madge, a Met Office spokesman, said: “The intense plunge in temperature will create a dramatic end to winter and the beginning of spring. These cold conditions will bring freezing temperatures to the UK with a significant risk of snow, particularly in eastern parts of Britain where daytime highs in some parts are going to struggle to get above 0 °C.

“This pattern is likely to remain established for some time with forecasters indicating little chance of a reprieve within the next week or so.”

For more tips and activities on how to help birds and wildlife in your garden all year round, visit www.rspb.org.uk/homesforwildlife

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