Wild birds in snowy weather

02/04/2012 - 13:23

I'm sitting at my laptop at the window facing the garden watching the first snowflakes start to come down. We're due a heavy snowfall tonight in Buckinghamshire. There's a blackbird sitting on the garage roof wagging his head around. I wonder if he knows what is coming and is out searching for his supper.I know that cold weather is not a big problem for birds as they have insulating feathers to fluff out, it's the finding of food when snow comes down that is the problem as berries and seeds become hidden. In England we have a culture of looking after the birds that visit our gardens, but what about in Italy? Do Italians put out feeding stations in their gardens and on their balconies to provide high energy food as lifesavers?



I have been googling Italian birds and winter weather.  It seems the Italian Sparrow is one of the wild birds most commonly consumed as food in Italy!  Perhaps feeding stations are used as bird traps instead of lifesavers!

I feed the birds and my Italian neighbour does the same. When I am not there, I leave supplies. There are also about 6 ducks (numbers vary) and a couple of geese coming daily to get bread pieces thrown into the river for them. I think that the trouts eat all the leftovers as they are huge in the area where our mill is. Eating small birds has been part of the culinary tradition in Italy. There are plenty of dishes made with them. I guess that poor people had to get some protein in any way they could and there were plenty of very poor people in Italy in the past. Rich people ate pheasants and partridges. Poor people ate sparrows and pigeons.

The Italian Robin, Chaffinch, Coat tit, and other small birds and very timid and have not fed from my improvised net bag full of food I hung from the pergola, but they have gone for the cracked walnut shells we threw on the terrace. Any movement at the window and they flew away. Now of course the nut shells are covered in yet more snow!

It will take time for wild birds to 'trust' feeders but I know of someone who has had sucess in Abruzzo.It's worth perservering as the blue tits will help control all those nasty greenfly and aphids in the spring. Sparrowhawks and cats will find it easier to take birds on the ground so try and hang up a wood board to put food on. The favourite food here are sunflower seeds! www.myabruzzohome.blogspot.com  

Have hung a couple of strings of Peannuts(Monkey Nuts) from our tree but bluetits etc reluctant to peck at them; not sure why, as hung well above ground and not too close to the house. Pickey  Birds??

It can take a couple of years, for birds to trust feeding staions. I have 4 feeders on long poles (from CJ Birdfoods in UK) My birds are going through 4 feeders of sunflower seeds in 4 hrs at the moment. This morning I had a Robin feeding from my hand. You have to be very patient and just hold your hand out as still as possible for this to happen.

They say birds sing differently in different parts of the country, and it's certainly true that their eating habits can be different. When I lived in the country the tits got through acres of peanuts.  The townie birds I feed now completely ignore them - but go wild for sunflower seeds (the ones with the skins still on - they're not bothered by those already peeled) Never saw a goldfinch/redpoll/redwing/fieldfare feeding in the countryside, but they all come to feed in my garden now.  No nuthatches though...

We have a couple of "merli" or blackbirds who have built themselves a nice nest in our loggiato. They are there every year and they enjoy worms, insects, bays and fruit. I can remember one day when I saw Mrs Merli returning to her nest with a fat worm in her beak. She stopped for a second and showed it to me, full of pride. Ever since, my husband's bait supplies have diminished considerably. And I always leave out some small pieces of fruit. This is why they always come back, plus the fact that their nest is very well protected. Different species of birds have different feeding requirements. But, if we observe them, we will soon know what they like.

It's been lovely reading about how you look after your wild birds in Italy. We've had some snow here in Buckinghamshire, enough to cover the ground and trees and bushes. We have a shrub with red berries outside our dining room window.  There are tracks in the overnight snow that show some cloven hoofed animal has been sniffing around.  I saw my neighbour out in his garden in his walking boots shaking off the snow from branches - I expect to allow the birds access to anything left alive on the leaves. I have just read that you should never put out any food in mesh bags. These may trap birds’ feet and even cause broken or torn off feet and legs. Birds with a barbed tongue can become trapped by their beaks. This afternoon I saw a robin on my patio table helping himself to some dried fruit and seeded bread crumbs. I do love wild birds! When we get to our place in Lunigiana we'll have to do something about the swifts nest that appeared last year under the eaves. I've read that swifts return year after year - and they do make an awful mess.  I had to wash my terrace twice a day last summer to clear up their droppings.  I don't want to destroy them, just stop them coming back this year!  It is not as though I ever saw them - just their leavings!