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Feathered friends need human help to get their strength back; RSPB: 'Spring is one of the leanest times for wild birds'.

SPRING may be on its way, but garden birds need human help if they are to thrive, the RSPB warns.

"The birds that are currently in people's garden are the strongest and fittest, " said an RSPB Cymru spokeswoman. "They are the ones who have survived long cold nights, frozen ground, rains and snow. They live despite autumn's seeds and berries being almost all gone and few insects having yet emerged. They may be the winners of the wildlife Winter Olympics but right now they are often exhausted."

If the longer, warmer days and frost-free nights have lulled you into reducing the amount of food you are putting out for your finches, thrushes and sparrows, the RSPB is urging you to think again.

"Increasingly spring is being recognised as one of the leanest times for wild birds, and the advice is to feed birds year-round.

"Indeed spring can be the period with the highest adult death rate amongst some of our favourite garden birds, just at the point where male birds need their strength to defend a territory and attract a mate, and females need to invest a lot of energy in producing eggs."

Many garden birds are now singing strongly, but a regularly asked question is, "When do they actually start to lay eggs?"

This month is the right time for the Mistle Thrush and Robin, while early-April is laying time for the Blackbird, Song Thrush and Dunnock. Mid-April is when the Starling lays its eggs, with the Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Wren all preferring late-April.

Simple precautions THE golden rule of bird feeding is never to put out salted items and there are some extra precautions for spring and summer when garden birds are feeding young:

Good hygiene of bird tables is important year-round but the warmer the weather, the swifter disease-producing bacteria can multiply;

Avoid using loose peanuts, fat or bread which can choke young birds;

Try out extra-nutritious spring meals such as mealworms, a special favourite of Robins.

CAPTION(S):

NATURE'S WAY: A Robin feeds on a worm FEED THE BIRDS: A Great Tit visits a garden food table. The RSPB advises year-round feeding
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 12, 2002
Words:360
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