Feed Birds

Sometimes when we look out of the window into our gardens, it is difficult to believe that song thrushes, sparrows and starlings are all struggling to survive in the countryside, but they are.

Over the past 50 years, many common birds have dramatically declined so giving them a helping hand can really make a difference.

Many people like to supplement their garden birds' diet with extra food during the winter, which can be a real life-saver during the cold, dark months but summer feeding is also important to the successful rearing of young chicks when food is scarce or difficult to find.

You can either provide birds with leftovers from your kitchen or use commercially available bird food to keep them going. By putting out a range of food in different locations, you could attract up to 50 species of bird to the garden.

Food to provide

Any kitchen scraps will be welcome, but do not put out desiccated coconut, which swells in the stomach, or whole peanuts that can choke chicks, and moisten very dry bread. Grapes, sultanas, raisins and some artificial sweeteners are also extremely toxic to dogs. These foodstuffs should be placed on a raised bird table and never scattered on the ground.

Why not try these?

• Unsalted peanuts in feeders or threaded together on string (peanuts can be naturally contaminated with an invisible toxin so make sure you buy nuts that are of guaranteed quality)
• Wild bird seed (widely available in shops and garden centres)
• Net-free suet or fat balls (available in shops and garden centres) - netting can trap and kill wildlife so always ensure it is removed before use
• Crumbled or grated cheese
• Pastry, stale cake, biscuits and breadcrumbs (moisten the bread if it’s very dry)
• Cooked rice, potato and pasta
• Uncooked and unsalted bacon rind
• Bruised fruit such as apples and pears
• High energy foods, various nuts and seeds.
• Apples, cut in half and put on a table or the ground are excellent for blackbirds and robins.

Fresh water should be provided at all times, in a shallow container so birds can drink and bath without danger of drowning. If the bird bath is on the ground or in the form of a pond, then other animals, such as hedgehogs will use it and it is important to have sloping sides so that animals can get in and out. Also remember to keep the water free of ice during very cold weather.

How to feed them

Different species of birds have different feeding habits. Hanging food is ideal for some birds, such as the tit family, and dispensers and bird tables have the benefit of being off the ground so that other foraging animals like mice and rats can't get at them.

Remember to remove surplus food from the surrounding area daily and to clean your bird table and feeders thoroughly every week with a mild disinfectant, (rinsing carefully afterwards with fresh water). This will avoid the spread of disease.

Many birds prefer to eat on the ground, so put food on the lawn – but make sure to place it well away from shrubs where pesky cats might be hiding! Don't put the food near nest boxes, as the busy atmosphere will put the birds off nesting and don’t put food out late in the day, as it might attract rats and mice overnight.

If you have old trees, you can also smear fats and fix nuts into crevices in the trunk, which nuthatches, treecreepers and woodpeckers adore.

Have you pledged to feed the birds yet?

Download our 'how to' guide below.


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