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Fat’s the Way To Do It – Feeding Garden Birds This Winter!

October 1, 2018
Migrating Barnacle Geese in Flight

We all love our garden birds they look amazing and are always entertaining but there's also so much more going on under the feathers that makes them doubly amazing and helps us understand why feeding certain foods is so important to help some of our favourites!

Birds, like people, are warm-blooded but they have a higher metabolism which means they process food and oxygen much faster than us, turning it into energy to survive. This also means they have a higher body temperature of around 40° Celsius. As the air temperature gradually drops during autumn and winter it gets harder for birds to maintain this high temperature and that's where garden bird feeders can help.

Birds have lots of physical adaptions to help them survive cold weather, feathers that can be fluffed up to trap warm air close to the body are the most obvious or standing on one leg to warm the other closer to the body in warm feathers during cold conditions. In order to maintain a high body temperature it is vital that they build up their body fat reserves in Autumn when food is more abundant ahead of the winter.

These fat reserves act to add an extra layer of insulation for those times when temperatures plummet and it gets really cold.

Being able to access readily available high-energy foods in the garden that help them to build these fat supplies as quickly as possible is a huge boost to the range of species that live or visit our gardens.

If we want to give your birds the opportunity to take on as many calories as possible as quickly as possible then we need to offer them super high calorie foods and one of the best options to do this is suet.

It appeals to a wide range of birds so it's a super way of attracting different birds into the garden at the same time as providing that much-needed high energy food source.

There's a huge range of choice in how you can offer suet in your garden and something to suit every situation.

Whether you choose fatballs, suet blocks and suet pellets, they all do the same job but will appeal to different birds depending on their feeding preference.

Ground feeders like Blackbirds and Robins love to pick out suet pellets scattered in leaf litter or from a bird table, while Starlings, Nuthatches, Blue Tits and Great Tits prefer hanging feeders they can pick from.

Later in winter there's no better sight than a small tribe of Long-tailed Tits crowding around a suet block or cake making the most of what's on offer!

Top Tip – Keep an eye out on your suet feeder just before dusk for Long-tailed Tits as they often nip into gardens for a last minute high energy supper before going to roost.

If temperatures stay high in the Autumn (we can hope, can't we?) then it can be best to offer smaller quantities to avoid suet going off or mouldy; this can happen if it is left out uneaten for longer periods. Try two fatballs in a feeder instead of three or carefully cut a block in half, feed half and store the second half in the freezer until you need it.


If you have never put out suet before, why not give it a go this Autumn - we think you'll be amazed at the birds it attracts!

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