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Prepare for wildlife winter; As winter draws in, Hannah Stephenson looks at how we can help birds survive the cooler months.

THEY are as important to the wildlife garden as butter is to bread, not only providing interest to birdwatchers, but helping to keep unwanted pests such as slugs and snails under control.

As their natural habitat continues to disappear, it is more important than ever to feed the birds over the winter.

"Keeping feeders topped up can mean the difference between life and death, especially for some smaller birds who lose heat from their bodies extremely quickly when it's really cold," says Gemma Rogers, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

But it's difficult to know which are the best. "There are a lot of nasty feeders out there which can trap beaks and feet," she says, "so go to a reputable supplier. Some feeders are cheap for a reason."

Don't put out nylon mesh bags containing fat as birds can become trapped in them. Go for steel mesh feeders and provide a mix of seeds to attract different birds.

Birds require high energy, high fat foods to maintain body reserves to survive frosty nights.

Finches are especially grateful for seeds in late winter and early spring. In summer they love black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, soaked sultanas, raisins, mild grated cheese, mealworms, waxworms, mixes for insectivorous birds and good seed mixtures.

Peanuts will attract blue tits, great tits, woodpeckers and even robins if you crush the peanuts, niger seeds will encourage finches and siskins.

Bird tables attract larger birds such as collared doves, wood pigeons and starlings.

Traditional countryside hedges are full of blackberries, elderberries, rosehips, haws and sloes on which the birds can feed, and you can mimic the classic hedgerow in your garden by planting a fruiting hedge.

The RSPB advises gardeners to mix rugosa roses, elder and hawthorn to act as a wild foodstore, even adding a gooseberry or bramble.

If you have fallen apples and pears, leave them for the song thrushes and blackbirds who will feast on them.

Let the birds make the most of nature's larder - but make sure you offer them extra titbits to help them through the winter.

CAPTION(S):

NATURAL FEAST A rugosa rose, which will help act as a foodstore for birds over the winter. FEEDING TIME A greenfinch, bluetit and robin enjoy a variety of winter foods, which encourage wildlife to gardens.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 13, 2010
Words:386
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