As part of our #FatTheFatberg campaign, we recommend you put your fats and cooking oil in a glass jar and bin it. But did you know you can use some fats to make fat balls for birds?
The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is happening from 26th to 28th January (this weekend) and I got a great fat ball recipe (thanks to the RSPB) your feathered friends will absolutely love!
I got a chance to interview Jamie Wvyer from RSPB, who provided some helpful tips on what sort of fats you should use and avoid.
Peta: Which fats are appropriate to use when making fat balls for birds?
Jamie: When you’re making fat balls for birds, what you need is fairly solid fats – suet and lard. The kind of thing in warmish weather will stay solid.
Peta: I understand there’s some fats people should avoid using because they are harmful to birds, which ones are they?
Jamie: That’s right, so when you use fat from cooking, the problem with that is - it’s runny and you got meat juices/blood blended into it. When you put it out in your garden it smears on birds’ feathers. And the reason that’s bad, it blocks their feathers from the ability to stay healthy, especially this time of year. It’s very hard for them to clean it off, keep warm and to keep their feathers waterproof.
Peta: What sort of nutritional benefits do fat balls have for birds and how does that contribute to their overall health?
Jamie: In winter they need to maintain their body temperature and building up a layer of fat is particularly a good idea for them. You will notice when you put a variety of food out for them all year around, the intake of fat is much greater in winter. They tend to eat a lot more fat when it’s cold.
Peta: What sort of fat ball add-ons are popular among birds?
Jamie: They tend to look for insect protein, I find breaking up pieces of meal worms is a good idea. But you can also seeds, if you got bits in your kitchen, there’s no harm in throwing in cheese, dry fruit is also a good option. But I must be clear you should avoid using dry fruit in the garden, if you got cats or dogs because it can be very bad for them.
Photo Credit: Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)Peta: Could you clarify if peanut butter is ok to use? Or would you avoid any nut butters?
Jamie: It depends on the ingredients, you can use peanut butter, but I would look very carefully at the ingredients just in case there might be a chance it might smear on their feathers. The nuts are obviously the key parts; it’s probably much easier to just put nuts out in the garden. But again, look at the peanut butter ingredients; to see if it’s suitable for birds. It’s not something we would recommend, but there is some goodness there.
Jamie: Yes, well the Big Garden Birdwatch is a special activity in itself, this year in 2019; we’re celebrating 40 years of the Big Garden Birdwatch! It runs over three days, at the end of January. Anyone can take part in it, it’s free and it’s actually great fun as well. You can take part the 26th to the 28th of January; it involves sitting by your window, looking into your garden or heading to local green space. You keep a record of the highest number of species of birds you might see at any one time. If you have a robin popping in or two robins popping in later in the day, it would be the two robins you would count. And you send your details onto us of what you recorded and from there we can build up a big national picture of what birds are sparring across the country.
If you need want to venture outside your garden, why not check out our reservoirs and sites? If you're participating in the Big Garden Birdwatch, post your pictures in the comments below!