Serve up a healthy dinner for garden birds this Christmas

The RSPB is urging people to put the leftover contents of their Christmas dinner roasting tins in the food waste bin and not in the garden this Christmas as the meat fat is extremely dangerous for birds.
A Marsh tit ANL-151217-154930001A Marsh tit ANL-151217-154930001
A Marsh tit ANL-151217-154930001

People should avoid leaving cooked turkey fat out on bird tables because, unlike fats such as lard and suet, cooked turkey fat can have deadly consequences for our garden visitors.

The fat remains soft even when cooled and it could easily smear onto birds’ feathers and ruin their water-proofing and insulating qualities. Birds must keep their feathers clean and dry if they are to survive the cold winter weather, but a layer of grease would make it virtually impossible for them to do so.

When mixed with other meat juices, the fat in roasting tins can quickly go rancid if it’s left in a warm kitchen before being put outside. This forms an ideal breeding ground for salmonella and other food poisoning bacteria, and just like people, this could prove fatal to birds at this time of the year as their defences are low and their energy levels depleted with the cold.

Often people will add salt to meat before cooking, however high levels of salt are poisonous to garden birds, therefore the RSPB urges people not to leave out cooked fats from any meat on the bird table this Christmas.

The good news is that there are alternatives for anyone looking to enjoy birds in their garden over the festive season. Instead of putting fat from the roasting tin on the menu for your garden birds this Christmas, the RSPB is encouraging people to put on a festive feast made up of other tasty treats.

Providing food for garden birds at this time of year can be crucial for helping them through the winter months and there are many great options. Bird seed table mix and suet balls are great for fattening birds up for the winter months and providing them with the nutrients they need. Some Christmas day leftovers which are suitable for our garden guests include cake crumbs, mince pie pastry crumbs and biscuit crumbs.

Ian Hayward, RSPB Wildlife Advisor, said: “It’s extremely important that people don’t put the fat from their roasting tins outside.

“Many people wrongly believe that leaving cooked turkey fat outside is beneficial for birds, but in fact it can have disastrous effects for our feathered friends. 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.”

To dispose of meat fat, the RSPB strongly recommend leaving it to cool and putting it in the food waste bin- not pouring it down the sink. Water companies are also urging people to dispose of meat fat this way.

Rachel Dyson, Keep It Clear campaign manager at Anglian Water, said: “An average cooked turkey produces ¾ of a pint of fat. Turkey and goose fat is fantastic for crisping up those roast potatoes on Christmas Day, but if it gets poured down the sink it can cause a major headache.

“Around 20,000 tonnes of fats and oils find their way into our region’s sewers each year and they cause thousands of blockages. Blockages lead to sewage spills and if this happens on your property the repair bill will be one Christmas delivery you don’t want.

“Our advice to anyone cooking Christmas dinner is to let the fat cool and then scrape it into your bin, or use some newspaper to scoop it up and put in your food caddy or composter. You’ll be saving yourself a lot of inconvenience as well as protecting your homes and the local environment from nasty sewage spills.”

For more information about how you can give nature a home in your outside space visit –