Tips on Feeding Garden Birds
Feeding garden birds has never been more important! Even birds that were once common are under threat with numbers in decline.
This is clearly shown in various surveys but perhaps most clearly in the RSPB’s State of the UK’s Birds 2017 Report.
Why the Decline
The degradation of the countryside is the main culprit.
More houses, roads, out of town shopping centres, factories and of course the intensification of agriculture are the greatest causes of this decline.
Can Gardeners Help?
Fortunately it couldn’t be easier to help our feathered friends simply by feeding garden birds!
Not only will this help them to survive and flourish but also it will give us the delight of watching birds up close and without even leaving our homes!
Feeding garden birds is especially important in winter when natural foods can be hard to find.
But it is also important to continue feeding garden birds right into spring. This is because spring is a time when natural foods are in short supply. This coincides with when birds are preparing to breed. During the breeding period most birds have to work especially hard to not only find food for themselves but also for their offspring.
Main Bird Feeds
To maximise on the number and the greatest variety of birds attracted to your garden it pays to offer a variety of different feeds.
Ground feeding birds will eat mixed bird seed and fruit but are especially attracted to mealworms. Blackbird, dunnock, robin, thrush, pigeon, chaffinch and even green woodpecker will go for these.
High energy suet [fat] balls will be favourites with the tit family and you may even attract five different types of these!
Peanuts are especially popular with spotted woodpecker and nuthatch but they will also be eaten by a wide range of other birds too.
Sunflower seeds also attract a good range of species. This includes the tit family, gold and greenfinches blackcap and also nuthatch. Cleaned sunflower seed- with the black outer shell removed- is very popular but also makes less mess in the garden.
Niger -sometimes also called nyjer seed– is especially attractive to goldfinch. This is one of the species that is actually increasing in number.
Others on the increase include several corvids. Magpie, carrion crow and raven have increased to levels not seen before and these of course predate smaller birds.
Water is just as important as food! No more so than during very cold weather.
Ensure that it is fresh and replaced regularly.
Shallow water containers filled with water will allow birds to bathe. They will maintain their feathers by regular bathing at all times of the year and this maintenance is vital for flight.
Situate feeders and water in the open.
However they need to be close enough to shelter -such as a dense bush- so that birds can quickly take cover when threatened.
This threat may come from cats or from birds of prey.
Hanging feeders in the branches of trees and placing water baths well off the ground will go a long way to minimising these threats.
Don’t overdo the amount of feed that you put out!
Try to offer just as much as can be consumed in a day.
If there is a regular surplus rats could be encouraged to visit at night!
Grey squirrels can be very destructive to feeders but also very entertaining to watch!
There are squirrel proof feeders which will help ensure that it is the birds that get the feed you put out.
Few will be fortunate enough to attract red squirrels to the garden and it is the destructive alien grey squirrel that is most likely to be seen.
Remember regularly feeding will encourage birds into your garden. This will help to reverse the alarming decline in many species. It will also to encourage them to stick around to feed on many plant pests!
Read about what you can plant in your garden to help birds –
How many different bird species are visiting your feeders?
Which type of bird feed do you find the most attractive to your birds?
More background reading –
The Telegraph ‘Garden birds in ‘alarming’ decline’
Birds of Britain ‘The Plight of Britain’s Farmland Birds’
You can get involved in tracking garden birds with the British Trust for Ornithology here