The human who helps the poor and hungry birds: setting up a bird feeder or hanging up a tit-noodle has been one of the most popular winter pastimes of the german people for decades. This way, native birds can be observed from close up on balconies, terraces or in the garden. In the winter months, three or forty years ago, there were no discussions about this. Frosty weeks and repeated snowfall made the search for food by the birds considerably more difficult.
In the meantime, the winters have become milder, and the current one has also been extremely temperate so far. Should we feed at all? Birds can take care of themselves, humans should stay out of it, some say. Others point out that due to intensive agriculture and often species-poor gardens, food bottlenecks are now occurring even at mild temperatures.
The landesbund fur vogelschutz (LBV) even advocates feeding the birds all year round. This improves the immune system of the animals and reduces stress. "But there are too few scientific studies on the effects of food offered by man", admits LBV press officer sonja dolfel. "But so far nothing is known, in what way it could hurt. And it is fun for many people to do this all year round."
Peter berthold, one of germany's best-known ornithologists, also advises year-round feeding. Anyone who wants to help the birds must put food out all year round – not just in winter. However, other birdwatchers warn against so much feeding zeal. If it was fed in the summer, the temperatures would allow pathogens to spread too quickly.
"You don't have to do without if you follow a few simple rules", says dolfel. However, a birdhouse does not make you a conservationist overnight. "Threatened species such as lapwings or skylarks are not saved in this way." One helps a few bird species, all of which are not endangered. There are about 200 species in germany. The maximum number of birds that come to the feeding station is ten to 15.
Hygiene is the most important thing
Those who participate in winter feeding should start at the end of october so that the birds already know the feeding place when it suddenly freezes over. Moreover, according to bird experts, it is good to do it regularly, because birds rely on their food sources.
The main rule, according to LBV advisor dolfel, is to pay attention to hygiene at the feeding site! "If the flat is open, it has to be swept out every day and regularly brushed with hot water", says dolfel. So-called feed dispensers are less labor-intensive because the feed is protected from rain and the animals do not run around in the feed and contaminate it with excrement. In this respect, these dispensers had to be cleaned only once or twice a year.
LBV also sees a need for hygiene under the feeding area. "The dirt, the empty seed coats must be swept away from time to time." If the bird house is on the lawn in the garden, you can just move it a little bit.If a marten or a mouse helped itself to the leftovers on the ground during the night, that was no big deal. "If it gets out of hand, however, you should stop feeding for a while."
Caution with ambrosia seeds
As for the food, dolfel strongly advises to pay attention to quality. In cheap mixtures often full materials like sand were used. Even worse are the seeds of the beifub-ambrosia – also called ambrosia – contained in some bird feed mixtures. "The birds do not eat the seeds, but push them downwards, where they can germinate later on." Ambrosia looks like inconspicuous weed and resembles the native beifub. The plant is very furrowed for those allergic to pollen.
Self-mixing for quality
In the meantime, manufacturers sell feed mixtures with the label "ambrosia controlled". Dolfel advises, however, that it is best to mix the feed yourself. If, for example, pure sunflower seeds are mixed with hemp and flax seeds, millet, nuts (unsalted), and other ingredients, the feed has to be of high quality!), greased oatmeal and dried raisins, have assured qualitat. And a few whole apples and pears for the soft food eaters (z.B. Blackbird, thrush or robin) and the feeding pleasure for man and animal can begin.