Bird Feeding Tips:
Firstly, and if you have sufficient storage space, it is far more cost-effective to buy bird food in bulk. Birds need high fat foods such as peanuts, seeds, fat balls and meal worms, which you can get from garden centres and pet shops. Niger seeds and sunflower hearts may seem expensive but, because there is no waste, these foods can be more economical. Store your bird food in a cool, dry, secure place.
Kitchen scraps such as bacon fat, bruised apples and pears, cooked potato, grated cheese, cake crumbs (including left over Christmas cake), raisins, cooked rice and pastry are also welcome; a variety of foods will attract different species of birds. Please ensure that you continue putting out food once you have started as the birds will come to rely on it.
It is important to keep feeders topped up, especially first thing in the morning, when birds are active and replacing energy lost overnight. Fill feeders with peanuts, seed mixes, sunflower hearts and fat balls (don’t use fat balls in nets; birds can get their feet caught in them). Additionally, goldfinches – if you have any nearby – can be attracted with Niger seeds.
Try and put bird feeders in a sheltered spot in the garden, away from the cold wind and well out of the reach of cats. Also use squirrel-proof feeders if squirrels are regular visitors to your garden. Larger feeders are easier to maintain because they don’t need filling up so often; however, if the food is not eaten quickly or adequately sheltered, it may grow mouldy. If any seeds at the bottom of the feeder become soggy, throw them out and let the feeder dry out before you refill it. Rather than rushing to refill feeders during the day, keep a tray underneath them; many seeds will spill throughout the course of the day, and ground-feeding birds can be encouraged to pick these up. Make sure to avoid the spread of disease by cleaning feeders and bird tables regularly.
Because not all birds use feeders, a sprinkling of food on the ground or on a bird table – provided that there are no cats around – will be beneficial. Do not put too much food out on the ground, however, as any which is left over at the end of the day may attract rats.
Don’t keep your garden too tidy! Leave seed heads and berries on plants and leave nest boxes up as roosting sites.
Birds need a supply of clean water every day; not just to drink, but also to wash in. Use bowls if you do not a have a bird bath, and try adding small twigs or ping pong balls to the water – the movement of this makeshift flotsam will prevent the surface of the water from freezing over. Do not use any salt or antifreeze products, as antifreeze is a poison that is lethal to both wildlife and pets.