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Byline: Steve Riches

THERE are more than 500 species of birds in the UK and Ireland and many of them could be knocking on your door as it gets colder.

All they ask for is a little hospitality.

They get to stay alive and you get a lot more nature in your garden.

It's the ideal deal, so let's get feeding. You'll need a bird table, for starters. Not any old table, but one that has the RSPB stamp of approval.

It recommends a 3ft square table, festooned with hanging feeders.

Ideally, it should be placed near to a large shrub rather than a fence, so birds can escape from predators, like the neighbour's cat.

On that table, the most important thing is a constant supply of fresh water. Then comes the food, which should be put out at a regular time, preferably in the early morning. If it's not all eaten, clear it away or you risk attracting vermin.

Now for the food. Your local gardening outlet will have bags and bags of the stuff, but look for those that contain the favourites, chopped peanuts, black sunflower seeds and maize flakes. That way, you'll attract a range of birds.

The smaller food is ideal for finches, dunnocks, robins, wrens and house sparrows. The larger stuff is loved by starlings and blackbirds, while the tits and greenfinches tend to prefer something in between.

I wouldn't recommend bags containing lentils, beans, dried rice or split peas because only the largest, least vulnerable, birds will eat them.

Specialised food bars and bird cakes are good, but you can easily make your own by putting a mixture of oatmeal, nuts, seeds and dried fruit in a container and pouring over melted fat. When it solidifies, plonk it in a feeder.

Other options are breakfast cereals, potatoes, mild cheese, pastry, bacon rind, cooked rice, crumbled bread, fruit and even dog or cat food.

Things to avoid are anything containing salt, along with dry biscuits, milk and large chunks of stale bread.

You wouldn't want to kill off your guests, would you?


SNACK BAR: Most birds like peanuts TEMPTING: Hang a feeder on your table VISITOR: Robins like small nuts and seeds
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Nov 13, 2011
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