Don’t be a turkey!

RSPB warns: don’t put cooking fat from your roast in the garden for birds

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

Home » Don’t be a turkey!

Published: 25 December 2016

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod


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The RSPB is reminding Christmas dinner chefs not to put the cooking fat from their festive roast out for garden birds as the greasy mixture can damage their feathers.

Dietary requirements

Christmas is a time for feasting and fattening up – not least for birds. In winter they need high-energy food to keep themselves warm.

With insects and natural food sources in short supply, laying on a festive spread for your feathered neighbours is a great idea. But, as with any dinner guest, it’s essential to adhere to their dietary requirements.

Birds will happily polish off leftover Christmas cake or crumbs of biscuit and mince pie, but cooked turkey fat and anything too salty can be dangerous.

Christmas cake for birds?

Cooled fat mixed with roasted meat juices can easily smear onto birds’ feathers and interfere with their waterproofing and insulation.

Birds need to keep their feathers clean and dry if they are to survive the cold winter weather, but a layer of grease would make this virtually impossible.

‘Many people wrongly believe that leaving cooked turkey fat outside is beneficial for birds, but in fact it can have disastrous effects. Only pure fats such as lard and suet should be used to make homemade fat balls which will give birds the energy and nutrients to survive the cold winter months.

‘Putting out some of the recommended festive treats will encourage birds such as blackbirds, robins and wrens into the garden just in time for the Big Garden Birdwatch in January.’

RSPB Wildlife Advisor

Another issue with fat from roasting tins is that it can quickly go rancid if it’s left in a warm kitchen before being put outside. This forms the ideal breeding ground for salmonella and other food poisoning bacteria and, just like people, this can be fatal to birds.

If you’d like to treat your garden birds to their own Christmas cake, the RSPB suggests mixing bird seed, nuts and raisins together with lard, squashing it in and around a pinecone, then hanging it with string from a suitable tree.

Click here for more from the RSPB on how to give Nature a home.

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