After benefiting from mild January weather, birds are struggling to deal with the cold snap, which comes at a crucial time as they prepare for the nesting season.
RSPB NI is asking people to give birds a helping hand in the icy conditions by topping up their garden feeders, filling up their bird baths and providing shelter.
With the exceptionally cold temperatures currently afflicting Northern Ireland, RSPB NI is asking people to think about their garden birds by topping up garden feeders, putting out fresh water and providing shelter.
Prolonged periods of cold weather leave birds vulnerable as natural food sources become harder to come by and water sources freeze over.
Joanne Sherwood, RSPB NI Director, said: “Many of our favourite garden birds such as starlings, robins, house sparrows, blue tits and blackbirds will be shocked by this sudden cold snap. Birds will be desperately searching for food, water and shelter to survive.”
She went on: “Birds don’t need much but by providing food, a supply of unfrozen water and somewhere to shelter from the elements, you will be rewarded with great views of wildlife in your back garden.”
At this time of year, birds are starting to think about finding a mate and building nests to raise a family, which means they need plenty of food and water.
To keep their energy up during the colder months, the best way to help garden birds is by providing them with a variety of food, but fatty food will be especially helpful. For example, fat balls or homemade bird cakes, which only take a few minutes to make and can be a great children’s activity, are perfect.
“These can be made cheaply with kitchen scraps and lard. If you prefer, seeds, fruits or dried mealworms are also among birds’ favourite snacks.
Another vital support for vulnerable birds is fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finding sources of water can be hard for birds when there’s been a frost, but with a simple trick you can help to keep a patch of water ice-free. RSPB NI recommends floating a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water as a light breeze will stop an area of water from freezing.
“Finally, providing shelter from the harsh weather is extremely important. Putting up a nestbox will give birds a great place to roost in and shelter from the elements before the warmer spring arrives.
Grahame Madge, a Met Office spokesman, said the intense plunge in temperature created a dramatic end to winter and beginning of spring and warned that the weather pattern was likely to continue.
For more tips and activities on how to help birds and wildlife in your garden all year round, visit www.rspb.org.uk/homesforwildlife