Feeding wild birds

Feeding wild birds is becoming a national pastime – backed by recent research that has shown that more than 60 per cent of the UK’s adult population now regularly feed wild birds in their gardens. That’s good news for the birds, who are constantly struggling due to the disappearance of natural habitats.

Both the RSPB and the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) recommend year-round feeding of birds, for while we may think that it is most important to do so in Winter, it is equally valuable in Spring and Summer when they are nesting and rearing young. Putting out extra food in Spring does away with some of the competition between young and adult birds for the natural food on offer at that time of year.

In order to attract many species of wild birds, it makes sense to offer a wide a range of food and feeding units. Site feeders and feeding stations in as open a position as possible so that visiting birds have advance warning of the approach of predators.  In harsh weather small birds may need to eat up to 30 per cent of their body weight daily.  Peanuts are a great favourite with blue tits, great tits and woodpeckers.  Grey squirrels also love peanuts and are very clever at eating through many types of feeders. The Gardman Guaranteed Squirrel Proof Peanut Feeder really is squirrel-proof because when the rodent jumps on to the feeder, it activates a metal sheath that covers the cylinder of peanuts until it jumps off.

There are many seed mixes available, and these will attract many different types of birds. For example, there is a Robin Seed and Insect Mix, which also includes some suet, and this blend is a substitute for the robin’s favourite feed of bugs and fat in times of hardship. There is also a Blackbird Seed and Fruit Mix. Sunflower seeds, and especially sunflower hearts, are a wonderful food for many birds because they provide maximum energy for minimum effort.  Even traditionally non seed-eating birds such as thrushes love these. In winter, blue tits can spend up to 85 per cent of their day simply feeding, so the provision of sunflower hearts is a terrific boost for them. Many people may be put off by the idea of feeding live mealworms to birds, but they are now on offer freeze-dried with all the goodness locked in. They are probably the most natural of all wild bird foods, and are especially valuable to many species during Autumn and Winter because they are particularly high in energy.  Many species love mealworms, but they are particularly attractive to tits, wrens, robins and thrushes. Mealworms can be fed from the ground, tables or seed feeders. It’s not just feeding that is important. Wild birds require a supply of clean, fresh water, both for drinking and for bathing. Birds need to bathe to help maintain the condition of their plumage, and as they preen water dislodges particles of dirt.