Christmas goodies for birds

A great tit at a bird feeder
A great tit at a bird feeder. Photo: Johan Nilsson

A lot of people feed birds in the winter, but what is good for them and what is not? Andreas Nord, bird researcher at the Department of Biology in Lund knows the answer.

“Fat is a lot better than crumbs from bread, pastry and buns. Fat is energy, bread is empty calories,” he says.

Saffron is a popular “Christmas spice” for baking. For quite some time there have been warnings on social media about feeding crumbs that contain saffron to birds. Lethal, some have said. But that is simply not true according to Andreas Nord who dismisses it as a myth. 

“Birds will be full and stop eating long, long before they reach a dangerous level of saffron.”

More important in the north

So, what can we serve our airborne little neighbours when winter is cold? Andreas Nord suggests something that people in many countries, not least the Nordic countries, prepare for Christmas – ham. Not the meat but the rind. Fatty seeds and fat balls are also good.

Birds manage well without being fed. They almost always find something to eat without people helping. Still, Andreas Nord thinks it is good that we feed them. In the northern parts of Scandinavia feeding can be crucial for birds’ survival during the winter. Especially for a bird like the great tit that has migrated to the north.

Our own well-being

The great tit came to the north of Sweden together with people, for example the railroad workers who fed them. Today, many years later, they probably still need feeding more than birds that are domestic to the north.

Andreas Nord emphasizes an often-neglected aspect of bird feeding – what it means to the people who feed the birds.

“I think it is important for our own well-being. Not least a year like this. When we feed the birds, we get closer to nature.”