As you sit down to your Christmas dinner, plate piled high with all the trimmings, spare a thought (and your leftovers) for our feathered friends.

Winter can be a difficult time of year for birds, natural food sources are harder to come by and the shorter days mean less time to hunt for morsels to eat. As the weather turns chilly, birds need a fatty diet to help them maintain their energy levels and to stay warm. As Christmas is a time for giving – you could make your garden a wildlife haven, stocking up feeders and providing fresh water throughout the winter months, which could make a real difference for these birds.

Why not start by sharing some of your Christmas leftovers, many of these make ideal snacks for our garden visitors, so why not share a little festive cheer and reduce your own food waste by feeding the birds?

Roast potatoes have a high fat content, and when chopped up will be enjoyed by most garden birds. Don’t let your cheeseboard go to waste either, robins and dunnocks are partial to a little mild grated cheddar. Chopped unsalted bacon rind, dried fruit, old apples and pears and cooked pastry all make great snacks too.

However, some of our leftovers can be harmful, including the fat from your roasting tin that can be fatal for birds. It sticks to their feathers, making it impossible for them to keep dry and warm, which is essential during the colder months.

By feeding the birds in your garden, on your balcony or at your window, you'll help them get through what can be a tough time of year. You might even see some new species flocking to your feeders, just in time for our Big Garden Birdwatch.

Having a mix of food available will attract a wider range of birds. Lovely gifts for your garden birds could include seed mixes and suet balls. They can provide the vital energy and nutrients they need and there is a great range available at the RSPB online shop. Thrushes enjoy chopped fruit; finches and house sparrows love seeds like sunflower and nyjer and robins can’t resist crushed peanuts, for more tips on feeding birds check out our guide. 

To help keep your feathered visitors happy and healthy, make sure you practise good hygiene by cleaning your feeders regularly, removing any old food and washing your hands. You can find more top tips about bird feeder maintenance here

Registration is now open for Big Garden Birdwatch, which takes place on 28, 29 and 30 January. The RSPB needs your help to find out how our garden birds are faring. To sign-up text BIRD to 70030 or visit