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Feeding Birds in Your Garden

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As the weather starts to get colder give the wildlife in your garden a bit of a boost with the following 5 tips:

  • Give your bird feeders and tables a hot water scrub to keep them hygienic 
  • Keep a water supply topped up and unfrozen (if possible) as birds need it for drinking and keeping their feathers well conditioned.
  • Native plants such as hawthorn, blackthorn and honeysuckle provide birds and insects with both cover and food, so don’t tidy up too much; leave dead wood, spent foliage and seed heads to provide ample opportunity for rest and relaxation.
  • Perfumed flowers such as lavender, viburnum, hebe and broom attract insects and therefor birds to the garden.
  • Allow birds to feast on healthy food such as fruits, nuts, berries and seeds.

 

What to Feed Birds 

Bird Seed Mixtures


There are different bird seed mixes that are best suited for feeders, bird tables or ground feeding.  The better mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds and peanut granules.  Small seeds such as millet attract mostly house sparrows, dunnocks and finches, while flaked maize is taken readily by blackbirds.  Tits and greenfinches favour peanuts and sunflower seeds.  Pinhead oatmeal is excellent for a wide variety of birds.  Mixes that contain chunks or whole nuts are only suitable for winter feeding.
 

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Peanuts


Tits, greenfinches, house sparrows, nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers and siskins love peanuts as they are rich in fat.  Crushed or grated nuts attract robins, dunnocks and wrens.    Nuthatches sometimes hoard peanuts.  Do not feed birds dry roasted or salted peanuts and ensure the peanuts you do buy, are from a reputable dealer as they can contain aflatoxin, a natural toxin that can kill birds.
 

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 High Energy Peanuts


Black Sunflower Seeds


Black Sunflower Seeds are an excellent year round feed with a high oil content, that are often more popular than peanuts.  The black ones have a higher oil content than the striped ones.   Sunflower hearts are a popular food with minimal mess as they have no husks.
 

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 Black Sunflower Seeds

Nyjer Seeds


These small black seeds with a high oil content, are a favourite with goldfinch, greenfinch and siskins.  They have even been known to attract redpoll to gardens.  They are recommended for year round feeding but as the seed is so fine it can easily be blown off tables and conventional seed feeders so a special Niger Seed feeder is required.
 

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 Nyjer Feed


Bird Cake & Feed Bars


Fat balls and other fat-based food bars are excellent winter food.


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 Bird Cake & Feed Bars


Live Foods & Other Insect Foods


Mealworms are relished by robins and blue tits, and may attract other insect-eating birds such as pied wagtails.


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 Dried Mealworms
  

Other Bits & Bobs

  • Fat Balls - our fat balls with no nets are a perfect addition to your bird feeder

  • Tinned meaty dog food

  • Mild grated cheese can attract robins, wrens and dunnocks

  • Fresh coconut in its shell, wash out any of the coconut milk before hanging it out to prevent the build up of black mildew.

  • Cooked Rice, without salt, is beneficial and readily accepted by all species especially during severe winter months.  Uncooked rice may be eaten by pigeons, doves and pheasants but is less likely to attract other species as it is not as easy to eat as cooked rice.

  • Porridge Oats should only be given uncooked and other breakfast cereals are best given dry with a supply of drinking water.

  • Remove mouldy or stale food as it could result in a build-up of bacteria, including salmonella bacteria which have resulted in deaths of greenfinches and house sparrows.

 


What NOT to Feed Birds

  • Cooking Fat:  Cooking fat from roasting tins and dishes is not suitable for birds as it mixes with meat juices and the consistency makes it prone to smearing which is not good for bird’s feather.  It is also a breeding ground for bacteria and may contain high salt levels.  Lard and suet on their own are fine as they re-solidify after warming and as they are pure fat, it is not as suitable for bacteria to breed on.

  • Margarines or Vegetable Oil: Birds need high levels of saturated fats eg lard or suet as they require its high energy content to keep warm during the cold winter weather.  Soft fats such as margaines or vegetable oil can be smeared on feathers destroying the waterproofing and insulating qualities.

  • Dry Dog & Cat Food:  Dry biscuits are not recommended as birds may choke on the hard lumps, it can however be used if soaked in water but ensure that it does not dry out.

  • Milk:  Never give birds milk as they cannot digest it and it could result in stomach problems or even death.

  • Desiccated Coconut: Desiccated coconut should not be fed to birds as it can swell once in their stomach and result in death.

 



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