An answer to a reader’s query in RSPCA Animal Life magazine (Winter 2009)
1. In an answer to a reader’s query in RSPCA Animal Life magazine (Winter 2009) the Society’s expert tackled recommendations to offer bacon fat and cheese to birds over the winter. The questioner had observed the harm done to humans by consumption of salty and fatty foods. In answer, the expert wrote: “We recommend those foodstuffs in small amounts, to be accompanied by fruit, seeds, and bread. Fat is an important supplement when natural food is scarce in winter and during droughts in summer. Unlike humans, birds need high levels of saturated fat, such as raw suet and lard, as the energy content helps keep them warm in winter since their body reserves are quickly used up.
2. The expert continues: “Garden birds are practically unable to metabolise salt, which in high quantities is toxic, so never put out salted food and never add salt to bird baths to keep water ice-free. In our leaflet Feeding Wild Birds in the Garden we recommend avoiding salty fats for this reason. Fat from cuts of meat is fine as long as it comes from unsalted varieties. Bacon rind is subject to debate, but bacon itself is OK as long as you can be sure it is not salty. In humans too much fat and salt is associated with health problems when people live a sedentary lifestyle, but this is not the case with most wild birds.”
3. We suggest that gardeners seek advice from their local vet and pet-food supplier to accommodate the needs and accessibility of sustenance of bird life in the neighbourhood. The RSPB would have some useful advice and fascinating information too. Nowadays the parks and gardens of suburbs are becoming more hospitable areas for wild birds than the bleak fields in the winter countryside and other species of animals than birds may take advantage of exposed food and water.