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Annual garden bird count in France this weekend

Birdwatchers get ready: French bird protection society la Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) has launched its annual garden bird counting event for the eighth year running.

The event takes place this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, January 25-26. As in previous years, participants are invited to observe a certain area of their garden - or any nearby open space, such as a park - for an hour during a specified timeframe, and record the birds that they see, before reporting the results online.

All the information needed, including sign-up details, can be found on the campaign website here. The site also offers identification sheets and posters to download, so help participants can be sure about which birds they are seeing.

The count helps the LPO to keep track of the state of bird populations in France. Last year, 10,000 people took part, and helped scientists to collect useful data.

LPO president Allain Bougrain-Dubourg said: “Right now, we can say that a third of birds - which are particularly dependent on agricultural areas for their survival - are in decline. Birds are interesting because they can indicate the state of the wider living environment. When they disappear, the whole lifecycle fades away.”

Bird feeders beware

Many people like to put food out for the birds in their garden, but LPO experts have warned that this should be done with care.

It is recommended to put food out from mid-November to mid-March, and to do so consistently once you have started, so the birds do not become accustomed to coming to your garden, but then suddenly find the food supply cut off. This can be fatal for them, the LPO said.

As well as food, it can also be a good idea to leave water too, in a small and shallow container where there is no risk of the birds drowning, and out of the reach of predators, if possible.

The advice also suggests that birds need fatty food in the winter, such as seeds or ripened fruits, but not bread. This can expand in the birds’ stomachs, the LPO said, giving them a feeling of fullness but not providing the nourishment they need over the colder months.

Bird food and houses can help birds to survive in the winter months (Photo: Egor Kamelev / Pexels)

Ornithologist and bird expert at the LPO in Vienne (Isère, ‎Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), Thomas Chevalier, said: “Fatty foods increase survival rates. We can also give seeds, preferably sunflower seeds, which are liked by most birds. Overripe fruits are also very much appreciated. The wider the variety of food, the better.”

As many birds also eat insects, you can also encourage them by arranging piles of leaves and small pieces of wood, as well as letting grass grow long near trees and stumps. Gardeners can also leave bird houses out all year round, as birds can use them to shelter from the cold if necessary, and may even build their nests there.

Yet, it is not recommended to continue to offer bird food after March, because this can stop birds from developing the survival skills they need.

Mr Chevalier warned: “If birds don’t develop the habit of finding their own food during good weather, they risk total habit and lifestyle change.”

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