Feeding small birds can be important for their survival, especially in the colder months.
In winter natural food sources are scarce and supplementary food, both in gardens and throughout the wider
countryside, is essential. It is proven that winter feeding can improve
breeding success the next spring.
In spring parent birds are rushing around making nests and finding natural foods (mainly insects) to feed their young. These adults will use the food you give them to fuel themselves during this hectic time.
Then when the young have fledged the adults will teach their offspring places to source food and this will include your feeders.
During summer and autumn natural food sources are more abundant so you will probably need to put less food out; but as soon as the colder weather returns you will see your birds coming back to the feeders more often.
Picture taken by Catherine Webster
What do I feed?
There are lots of different types of seeds on the market and the ones you choose will determine which birds you will attract. Buying a small bird mixture or high protein mixture will attract the most variety into the garden to begin with.
Seed feeders - can be hung from bird tables and feeders and can be a safer way for small birds to eat as there are fewer threats from cats and they can hang better than larger birds can. They can attract birds like tits and finches.
Ground mesh feeders - will suit birds like Robins, blackbirds and thrushes.
The birds also love sunflower heads when they have gone to seed. Hang the heads by the storks and they will enjoy the ripe seeds. They also appreciate thistle heads and lavender seeds, so don't dead head your lavender too soon.
Goldfinch & Siskin eating mixed seeds
Niger/Nyger Seeds are oil rich high in protein seeds that little birds struggle to resist, if you serve this it will attract species like goldfinches, siskins, greenfinches and redpolls.
Bullfinches eating Niger Seeds
Dried Mealworms / Insects
A great natural source of energy, fat and protein which the birds love and will never hang around on the bird table. Needs to be placed on a flat feeder. Loved by many like blackbirds, tits, thrushes, wrens, dunnocks and especially robins. During the breeding season you can get mini or mashed mealworms as the big whole dried ones can choke the fledglings. Why not also soak them in water as another way to keep the birds hydrated!
Great Tit eating mealworms
All garden birds like peanuts as they are high in energy and fat, but try not to feed them in the summer as they can get stuck in fledgling and Juveniles throats. Place in a specialist peanut feeder or on a flat feeder but make sure to remove all packaging including any plastic mesh bags as these can harm the birds
Blue Tit eating peanuts
Suet treats and fat balls Suet treats are especially good in winter as they are rich in fat and protein, there are many different styles which can be hung on their own or in feeders and are great all year round. These are easy to make yourself and the birds adore them. Why not have a go and visit our shop to buy everything you need……
Long Tailed Tit eating fat ball
Picture by Catherine Webster
Chop up apples; pears etc. and either hang in wire feeders or on flat feeders or you can buy a special spike – feeders to hold the fruit while the birds feed off them. Dried fruit is a favourite too especially with blackbirds and robins. Seeds from melon are a favourite as well
Blackbird eating an apple
Bacon rind (chopped up small); over ripe fruit and even leftovers from meals can supplement garden birds. But NO BREAD – birds need food with high – nutritional benefit and bread is bulky, fills up their bellies with ‘empty’ food and doesn’t give them nearly as much nutrition as they need in their busy lives.
Blue Tit enjoying some Flutter Butter
Picture by Catherine Webster
To find out which types of feeders there are and where to place them please visit our Types of Feeders Page
All birds need water click here
to find the best ways to give them some water
to download our Feed the birds guide to find out which birds like what food and how they like to eat them.
SongBird Survival is a charity commissioning research into the decline of Britain’s songbirds. With your support and membership we hope to reverse their decline.
Click here to find out more……