Feeding garden birds
A short guide to help you get the most out of feeding the birds in your garden and to do it safely:
There are five main types of bird food:
- Straight seeds – as the name suggests, these seeds aren’t mixed with anything. Straight seeds include black sunflower, niger, oil seed rape, peanuts, red and white millet.
- Seed mixes – here the seeds are mixed into different blends, with the main advantage being that a greater mix of seed types attracts a greater mix of bird species.
- Husk-free seed mixes – similar to the above, the seeds in these mixes have had their husks removed and the advantage of this is twofold: much less mess to clear up and birds which can’t crack husks – e.g. Blackbirds – can also eat the mix. Some husk-free mixes also contain other foods like dried mealworms and suet pellets.
- Suet (also called fat) – this foods comes as blocks, balls and pellets. Lots of birds like suet and it provides a vital source of energy for them and particularly in the winter months.
- Live mealworms – a brilliant food to provide in the breeding and fledgling season.
Different types of feeders are designed for different types of food, but the other consideration is that some birds prefer, or can only use, certain types of feeder:
- Hanging seed feeders – these are for straight seeds and seed mixes. Finches and tits are the main families of birds to use them, but if you pick a feeder with rounded, rather than straight, perches then Robins will as well.
- Hanging niger seed feeders – this type of feeder is just for the tiny niger seed, as has very small holes in it to prevent the seed pouring out as it would do from a normal seed feeder.
- Hanging mesh feeders – these are for peanuts and suet pellets.
- Hanging cage feeders for suet blocks and suet balls. These are mainly used by most species of tit, bit other species including Great Spotted Woodpecker will also readily use them.
- Squirrel proof versions of all of the above (except the niger feeder) – these feeders have an outer cage which lets small birds in but keeps squirrels and larger birds, like Jackdaws, out.
- Ground feeders – basically a tray which sits just off the ground and ideal for species such as Blackbird, Song Thrush, Dunnock and Collared Dove which can’t use hanging feeders.
Where to position feeders
- Keep them in a relatively open area where cats have nowhere to hide and pounce. If you don’t have a tree to hang feeders on then a feeding station which pushes into the ground is the best solution.
- Always keep feeders clean
- It’s absolutely vital to keep bird feeders clean, as disease can easily spread from dirty feeders to birds and kill them. There is a range of products on the Vine House Farm website to help.
Don’t forget the water
Water is as important as food to most garden birds, and not just for drinking but bathing as well. So put out a bird bath along with your feeders, and always ensure the water is kept clean.
The Vine House Farm website also provides a wealth of detailed information on feeding birds in your garden.