An apple a day: Britons urged to remember their feathered friends on Feed the Birds Day

A little girl presses sunflower seeds into an apple, which will later dangle from a string on a tree in her garden (right). Her bird feeder is one of thousands made across the country this weekend to mark Feed the Birds Day, an initiative from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) to remind people that birds, too, get hungry when the weather turns colder.

Old apples, cold rice and pastry trimmings are among the kitchen scraps that could save the lives of thousands of birds if this winter proves as hard as last year's, conservationists warned. With many species in decline – goldcrests fell by 75 per cent last winter – the RSPB is anxious to encourage people to leave out food to compensate for diminishing natural food sources.

Nearly two-thirds of adults questioned in an RSPB survey claimed they fed the birds in their garden during the past year, but Richard Bashfood, RSPB Feed the Birds Day manager, warned birds were still starving to death. "There used to be a lot more sources of natural food. If we get a prolonged cold period, a lot of birds will die. Small-bodied birds really suffer because they lose their body heat very quickly."