March 5, 2018

How to Help the Birds through Climate Change.

We enjoyed a mini apocalypse this week in the United Kingdom.

Was there brimstone and fire? A plague of hungry locusts? Or did the bowels of hell open and release all kinds of demons?

No—it snowed.

And in keeping with tradition, the country came to a grinding halt, but that wasn’t what scared me the most.

What scared me the most about this “snow-pocalypse” was that the unusual weather came at a vital time for one of my favourite species—the birds.

A question I’ve always asked myself about the systematic destruction of the planet and my complicity in that process has been: which animal’s extinction will wake us all up to finally take this seriously? It seems I’ve found my answer.

While the country was covered in snow there was an eerie silence as the local bird population reduced their activity to conserve energy. And as we all marveled at the exceptionally cold weather from our central-heated homes, I couldn’t help but worry for the little ones who couldn’t escape the weather so easily. I also couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like if the birds disappeared altogether.

The RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and its supporters were also worried and Facebook was peppered with calls to help the small garden birds.

At this time of year, the birds are coming to the end of their fat stores and relying on a very sparse amount of food. The snow this week suddenly left the smaller birds without any food, little water, or warmth—and, thus, little energy to keep them going, which means they could die.

Conversely, the increase in overall temperature of the planet has already affected bird migratory and breeding patterns with the former happening later and the latter happening earlier. However, our planet is not just warming in a consistent trend. Instead, we are experiencing erratic weather patterns that, although slightly annoying to us tech-savvy humans, could be deadly to the rest of our fellow species.

For example, just to alarm you further, while we have been having unusually cold weather in lower latitudes, up in the Arctic it has been alarmingly warmer—up to 20 degrees warmer! Although this isn’t unheard of, there is an increasing frequency to these warm air spikes which seem to be due to a weakening “polar vortex”—the strong winds that keep the cold air up in the Arctic.

So, is this how it will end? As our climate becomes increasingly erratic, will we get to watch each of our fellow species die off while we linger on in our heated or air conditioned homes? 

Or…can we help and support our fellow beings as best we can, using the resources and technology that will keep us alive to help them too, while we work out how to stop and hopefully even reverse whatever the hell we’ve done to this planet?

In this case, there are several ways to help garden birds during freezing weather:


Food is always useful at this time of year for the birds. However, when faced with colder weather, they especially need fat. Suet cakes can be easily made at home or bought from your local garden centre.


With the freezing conditions lasting so long, there was suddenly no standing water for drinking or bathing. Making sure there is some unfrozen water available is vital for the birds to survive. Putting a ping-pong ball in the water will mean that any breeze will move the ball and stop ice from forming.


Providing some shelter via bird boxes can also help birds stay warm. One idea I saw suggested that you leave tufts of cotton wool pegged to your washing line so that the birds can collect it and make warmer nests.

The snow is gone now, and we’ll have temperatures of 8 degrees this week—12 degrees higher than last week. But if these trends continue, then we’ll need to do our best to support all living things—not just our fellow humans.

After writing this, I saw a Blue Tit. I’ve never been so pleased to see and hear a Blue Tit in my life.




Author: Suzy Williams
Image: Flickr/Sam Leech
Editor: Travis May
Copy & Social Editor: Catherine Monkman


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