Feeding Garden Birds in Winter
During the winter months, and especially when the weather is particularly harsh, wild birds struggle to find enough food. Putting out nutritious titbits and keeping clean water available throws them a lifeline, and gives us the pleasure of watching them.
How to Feed Birds
Choosing a variety of feeders and locations in the garden will attract the biggest variety of most birds to your garden as they all have their own preferences and needs. Dunnocks and thrushes, for instance, like to feed from the ground, so will appreciate food in a ground tray or anything scattered out in the open where they can watch for cats.
There are several kinds of feeder:
• Seed Feeders: Tits, finches and siskins love delicacies in seed feeders. The transparent tubes have holes and perches for the birds so they can get at the seeds inside. Fill them with seed mixes and sunflower hearts.
• Nut Feeders: These have a sturdy steel mesh and are the safest way to feed nuts to birds. When buying a nut feeder, look at the mesh size. This should be small enough that the birds can’t pull whole nuts through, but large enough that they won’t damage their beaks. Feeders with a mesh of roughly 6mm are ideal.
• Nyjer Seed Feeders: Nyjer seed is very small so needs a special type of feeder. Some birds, such as siskins and goldfinches Nyjer seeds.
• Hoppers and Trays: These are good if you want to feed a cereal-based mix, but you can also use them any other kind of bird food too. Make sure you keep trays clean to avoid health hazards, and you’ll attract all kinds of birds, including larger ones that won’t visit hanging feeders.
Best Types of Bird Food
Fat Balls. The best quality ones contain human grade ingredients. They’re a high-energy food, making them perfect for winter feeding, and they’re attractive to many different species including starlings and robins as well as all the tit family.
Mealworms. When birds can’t find high protein foods like worms or spiders, feeling them mealworms is a nutritious alternative. Put a few on the bird table and they’re often gobbled down first. They’re an excellent food for birds all year round, but especially during winter.
Seed Mixes. Blends of seed mix provide a variety of food types, and often contain oats, maize and wheat as well as corn and millet or sunflower seeds.
Other Foods for Birds
Garden birds will enjoy your kitchen scraps as well as the food you buy for them. You can safely feed cooked potatoes or rice, mild grated cheese or fruit that’s either fresh or dried. It’s also okay to feed them bread as a bit of a filler, but avoid too much as doesn’t have much nutritional value. Pastry, on the other hand, is good as it tends to have a rich fat value.
Foods to Avoid
Any kind of salty food is bad for birds, and this includes salty bacon rind and salted peanuts. Salt is toxic to birds as they can’t metabolise it. Don’t let them share your crisp snacks, and avoid adding salt to birdbaths to prevent the water freezing.