Garden birds need Christmas leftovers, says RSPB

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The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has called on people to consider the wildlife in their gardens when disposing of leftover Christmas dinners this year - but not all food is suitable. The society has issued a list of do's and don'ts for feeding Christmas leftovers to birds.

It says Christmas cake and mince pies are particularly beneficial to birds, as dried fruit and fat make good high-energy snacks. Unsalted savoury snacks are particularly good for house sparrows, greenfinches, tits, robins and starlings. Mild, grated cheese and cooked potatoes also offer a high-fat, high-energy snack.

The RSPB advises householders to make sure that a shallow dish of water is available. Dehydration is as dangerous to birds at this time of year as starvation. If water becomes frozen, warm water to thaw it out is effective and harmless.

Cooked meats should not be put out as they could attract vermin. Salted snacks such as peanuts, crisps, bacon and chips are not recommended, as most garden birds cannot process salt and will die if given too much.Bread is not calorie dense, and while it will not cause any harm, there is little to be gained from it for the birds.

The RSPB recommends putting out a moderate amount of these scraps that can be eaten in one day. It is also important that all foods are cut up so birds can swallow them easily.

Gemma Rogers of the RSPB said: "We all make far too much food at this time of year. Rather than throw your leftovers away consider which foods could be put out in your garden as a tasty treat for the birds."

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