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What food to provide

We receive numerous enquiries about what and how to feed garden birds. Many of them relate to the best type of food to provide, or whether particular foods are suitable for birds or not. This page shows you what to feed your garden birds - and what to avoid.

Bird seed mixtures 

There are different mixes for feeders and for birdtables and 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, finches, reed buntings and collared doves, while flaked maize is taken readily by blackbirds. Tits and greenfinches favour peanuts and sunflower seeds. Mixes that contain chunks or whole nuts are suitable for winter feeding only. Pinhead oatmeal is excellent for many birds. Wheat and barley grains are often included in seed mixtures, but they are really only suitable for pigeons, doves and pheasants, which feed on the ground and rapidly increase in numbers, frequently deterring the smaller species.

Avoid seed mixtures that have split peas, beans, dried rice or lentils as again only the large species can eat them dry. These are added to some cheaper seed mixes to bulk them up. Any mixture containing green or pink lumps should also be avoided as these are dog biscuit, which can only be eaten when soaked. 

Black sunflower seeds

These are an excellent year-round food, and in many areas are even more popular than peanuts. The oil content is higher in black than striped ones, and so they are much better. Sunflower hearts (the husked kernels) are a popular no-mess food.

Nyjer seeds 

These are small and black with a high oil content. They need a special type of seed feeder, and are particular favourites with goldfinches and siskins.

Peanuts 

These are rich in fat and are popular with tits, greenfinches, house sparrows, nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers and siskins. Crushed or grated nuts attract robins, dunnocks and even wrens. Nuthatches and coal tits may hoard peanuts. Salted or dry roasted peanuts should not be used. Peanuts can be high in a natural toxin, which can kill birds, so buy from a reputable dealer, such as our online shop, to guarantee freedom from aflatoxin.

Bird cake and food bars

Fat balls and other fat-based food bars are excellent winter food. If they are sold in nylon mesh bags, always remove the bag before putting the fat ball out – the soft mesh can trap and injure birds. You can make your own bird cake by pouring melted fat (suet or lard) onto a mixture of ingredients such as seeds, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal, cheese and cake. Use about one-third fat to two-thirds mixture. Stir well in a bowl and allow it to set in a container of your choice. An empty coconut shell, plastic cup or tit bell makes an ideal bird cake ‘feeder’. Alternatively, you can turn it out onto your birdtable when solid.

Live foods and other insect foods

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

Mealworms are a natural food and can be used to feed birds throughout the year. It can become quite expensive to constantly buy mealworms, and many people want to grow their own. You can culture your own mealworms (click on the link to the left). If you cannot face this performance, buy your mealworms from the professionals, consoling yourself with the thought that successful mealworm breeding is even more difficult than it sounds. Click on the link to the right to buy mealworms from our online shop.

It is very important that any mealworms fed to birds are fresh. Any dead or discoloured ones must not be used as they can cause problems such as salmonella poisoning.

Waxworms are excellent, but expensive. Proprietary foods for insect-eating birds, such as ant pupae and insectivorous and softbill food are available from bird food suppliers and pet shops. Insect food appropriately offered can attract treecreepers and wrens.

Cooking fat

Fat from cooking is bad for birds. The problem with cooked fat from roasting tins and dishes is that the meat juices have blended with the fat and when allowed to set, this consistency makes it prone to smearing, not good for birds' feathers. It is a breeding ground for bacteria, so potentially bad for birds' health. Salt levels depend on what meat is used and if any salt is added during cooking.

Lard and beef 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. 

Polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils

These are unsuitable for birds. Unlike humans, birds need high levels of saturated fat, such as raw suet and lard. They need the high energy content to keep warm in the worst of the winter weather, since their body reserves are quickly used up, particularly on cold winter nights. The soft fats can easily be smeared onto the feathers, destroying the waterproofing and insulating qualities.

Dog and cat food

Meaty tinned dog and cat food form an acceptable substitute to earthworms during the warm, dry part of the summer when worms are beyond the birds' reach. Blackbirds readily take dog food, and even feed it to their chicks.

Dry biscuits are not recommended as birds may choke on the hard lumps. It is sometimes added to cheaper seed mixtures for bulk. Soaked dog biscuit is excellent, except in hot weather as it quickly dries out. Petfood can attract larger birds such as magpies and gulls, and also neighbourhood cats. If this is likely to be a problem, it is best avoided.

Milk and coconut

Never give milk to any bird. A bird's gut is not designed to digest milk and it can result in serious stomach upsets, or even death. Birds can, however, digest fermented dairy products such as cheese. Mild grated cheese can be a good way of attracting robins, wrens and dunnocks.

Give fresh coconut only, in the shell. Rinse out any residues of the sweet coconut water from the middle of the coconut before hanging it out to prevent the build-up of black mildew.

Desiccated coconut should never be used as it may swell once inside a bird and cause death.

Rice and cereals

Cooked rice, brown or white (without salt added) is beneficial and readily accepted by all species during severe winter weather. Uncooked rice may be eaten by birds such as pigeons, doves and pheasants but is less likely to attract other species.

Porridge oats must never be cooked, since this makes them glutinous and could harden around a bird's beak. Uncooked porridge oats are readily taken by a number of bird species.

Any breakfast cereal is acceptable birdfood, although you need to be careful only to put out small quantities at a time. It is best offered dry, with a supply of drinking water nearby, since it quickly turns into pulp once wetted.

Mouldy and stale food

Many moulds are harmless, but some that can cause respiratory infections in birds, and so it is best to be cautious and avoid mouldy food entirely.

If food turns mouldy or stale on your birdtable, you are probably placing out too large a quantity for the birds to eat in one day. Always remove any stale or mouldy food promptly. Stale food provides a breeding ground for salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. At least one type of salmonella causes death among such species as greenfinches and house sparrows. Large quantities of food scattered on the ground may attract rats and mice. Rats can carry diseases that affect humans.

(FROM RSPB)

Catalogue:Bird Care Tips | 固定链接 | 评论: 0 | 引用: 0 | 查看次数: 58

All about bird tables

A bird table will be at its most popular and valuable when natural food is in short supply; usually from October to April. At the end of the winter there are natural signs that tell you when you can stop feeding: the appearance of large numbers of insects and the buds on the trees starting to open are good guides.

At the end of the winter there are natural signs that tell you when you can stop feeding: the appearance of large numbers of insects and the buds on the trees starting to open are good guides.

The bird table can be left in position all year round, but bringing it in out of the weather during the summer will prolong its life. 

If you wish to continue feeding birds during the spring and summer, current thinking is that this will cause no harm as long as hard foods are avoided.

If you enjoy watching birds, consider providing more varied feeding stations to attract more species. Unfortunately, tidier gardens and the changes in farming methods have reduced the natural food supply of species such as finches, buntings and sparrows. 

Providing sunflower seeds will help them. They are eagerly taken and unlikely to be harmful if given to young in the nest.

If it takes a few days before you see any birds, don't be discouraged. Once the birds discover the food and convince themselves it is not a trap, they will visit regularly.

(FROM RSPB)

Catalogue:Bird Care Tips | 固定链接 | 评论: 0 | 引用: 0 | 查看次数: 65

Frequently asked questions

 What food is best for birds?

Different birds need different foods to sustain them. If you supply a variety of food you are more likely attract many species.

Household scraps such as pastry, cooked rice and breadcrumbs are enjoyed by many garden birds. Fruit, especially bruised apples and pears, will be popular with thrushes and blackbirds.

When you are buying bird food, try to get a good mix of peanuts, seeds and live food such as mealworms and waxworms. Then you should have something to offer all the birds. Good ready-made mixes should contain sunflower seeds, broken peanuts, flaked maize and smaller seeds such as millet.

What are the best foods to put out for birds during the cold winter weather?

During cold spells your supply of food can save the lives of birds. Make sure you put out food and water on a regular basis. In severe weather, feed twice daily if possible, in the morning and in the early afternoon.

Bird cake and food bars are very good because of their high-fat content, as are peanuts. Bird seed mixtures are also high in oils. You can also feed kitchen scraps, such as fat and suet, mild grated cheese, cooked potatoes, pastry and dried fruit.

Can I put out salted peanuts for the birds?

No - most garden birds cannot process salt and will die if they are given too much. It’s best to avoid offering garden birds any foods that contain lots of salt including salted peanuts, salty bacon, chips and crisps.

Is it okay to feed peanuts to birds during the breeding season?

It is important during the breeding season to only put out peanuts in metal mesh feeders. This means that birds cannot take whole nuts, which can choke young birds. It is also important not to use nylon mesh bags, as these can trap birds’ feet.

Are mealworms a good food for birds?

Mealworms are full of nutrition and are excellent food for insect-eating birds such as robins, blue tits, wrens and pied wagtails. You can feed them to the birds all year round. In very cold or very dry weather when birds struggle to find worms, insects and spiders in hard ground, mealworms make a good alternative for them.

Where is the best place to put a birdtable in my garden?

Birdtables should be placed where the birds are safe and will be able to feed undisturbed. Avoid putting them near fences or dense hedges, where cats can easily get to them. If there is a small bush nearby, birds can use this as a look-out point to make sure it is safe. 

And don’t forget to make sure it is visible from a window so you can enjoy watching the birds as they feed.

What can I use to treat a birdtable?

It is best for the birds if you leave a birdtable untreated. However, it will last longer if you treat it. Water-based preservatives, such as Fenceguard or Sadolin, are less toxic and will not affect the food you put out. The preservative should be thoroughly dry before you use the table for feeding.

Should I supply drinking water for my garden birds?

It is good to provide a regular supply of clean water for birds to drink and bathe in.

Water is particularly important during the winter when natural supplies may be frozen, and in dry weather. Shallow containers, like dustbin lids or plant saucers, work well, but make sure you clean them regularly to prevent diseases from spreading.

It's summer, why have the birds suddenly vanished from my garden?

This is a question we are regularly asked in the summer. Unless you are finding dead birds, then there is really nothing to worry about. In late summer, birds are nearing the end of a period of hectic activity: the breeding season.

Many of them will go through a period of moult to renew worn or juvenile plumage. While they are losing their flight feathers, they are vulnerable, so conceal themselves from predators.

They seldom sing, and no longer need to defend territory, so seem to disappear. Late summer and early autumn is also a time of plenty for birds. The natural food supply is abundant. Birds will move from their breeding areas into farmland, orchards or woodland for instance, to feed on grain, berries and weed seed.

They can be absent from gardens until we get the first autumn frosts so late summer is a good time to clean feeders and bird tables, ready for the birds’ return. A 10% disinfectant solution is suitable but thoroughly rinse any feeders before using them again.

Water containers should be scrubbed out, and wooden tables can be treated with a water-based preservative to protect them. Consider hanging the feeders and placing the bird table in different areas and do ensure that they are cleaned regularly. This will help to reduce the spread of disease amongst the birds visiting your feeding station.

(FROM PSPB)

Catalogue:Bird Care Tips | 固定链接 | 评论: 0 | 引用: 0 | 查看次数: 56

When to feed wild birds

Although winter feeding benefits birds most, food shortages can occur at any time of the year. By feeding the birds year round, you'll give them a better chance to survive the periods of food shortage whenever they may occur.

Autumn and winter

At this time of year, put out food and water on a regular basis. In severe weather, feed twice daily if you can: in the morning and in the early afternoon.

Birds require high energy (high fat) foods during the cold winter weather to maintain their fat reserves to survive the frosty nights. Use only good quality food and scraps.

Always adjust the quantity given to the demand, and never allow uneaten foods to accumulate around the feeders. Once you establish a feeding routine, try not to change it as the birds will become used to it and time their visits to your garden accordingly.

Spring and summer

Only feed selected foods at this time of year. Good hygiene is vital, or feeding may do more harm than good.

During the summer months, birds require high protein foods, especially while they are moulting.

Black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, soaked sultanas, raisins and currants, mild grated cheese, mealworms, waxworms, mixes for insectivorous birds, good seed mixtures without loose peanuts, RSPB food bars and summer seed mixture are all good foods to provide. Soft apples and pears cut in half, bananas and grapes are also good. Some people use soaked dog or cat food and tinned pet foods, but these may attract magpies, crows and cats.

Avoid using peanuts, fat and bread at this time, since these can be harmful if adult birds feed them to their nestlings. If you feel you must put out peanuts, only do so in suitable mesh feeders that will not allow sizeable pieces of peanuts to be removed and provide a choking risk.

Home-made fatballs can go soft and rancid in warm summer weather, and should be avoided. Commercially produced fat bars are suitable for summer feeding but discard any remains after three weeks.

Temporary food shortage can occur at almost any time of the year, and if this happens during the breeding season, extra food on your bird table can make a big difference to the survival of young.

Birds time their breeding period to exploit the availability of natural foods: caterpillars in the case of blackbirds and song thrushes and earthworms in the case of tits and chaffinches. It is now known that if the weather turns cold or wet during spring or summer, severe shortage of insect food can occur, and if the weather is exceptionally dry, earthworms will be unavailable to the ground feeders because of the hard soil.

Natural food shortages

If food shortages occur when birds have young in the nest they may be tempted by easy food put on birdtables to make up the shortfall in natural food, initially to feed themselves, but if the situation gets bad enough, they will also take the food to the nest.

If the food offered on your bird table isn't suitable for the young chicks, it can do more harm than good, and can even be lethal to the chicks as they can choke on the food. It can be difficult for a human to gauge when food shortage in the wild occurs, and hence it is best not to put out food that is likely to create problems during the breeding season.

Therefore, never put out loose peanuts, dry hard foods, large chunks of bread, or fats during the spring or summer months.

(FROM PSPB)

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