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Feeding garden birds

Great and Blue Tit at garden feeder. © iStock

Helping garden birds can be as rewarding for you as it is for them. By using bird tables and hanging feeders, you can bring wild birds right up to your window!


When do they need extra food?

Birds will benefit from being fed during some of the hardest times of the year – not just in the winter months. Our How to Feed and Care for Garden Birds page has hints and tips on seasonal feeding.


What should you feed them?

Be careful! Grapes, sultanas, raisins and some artificial sweeteners are toxic to dogs.

  • Suitable seeds and grains (like nyjer, millet, oats, and sunflower seeds).
     
  • Only feed peanuts if they're unsalted, fresh and sold for human consumption or by a reputable feed shop. To protect chicks from being fed whole nuts and choking, provide peanuts in good quality mesh feeders.
     
  • Cooked pasta or rice, boiled potatoes, cheese, uncooked and unsalted bacon rind, raisins and sultanas. 
     
  • Net-free fat or suet balls attract a wide range of species and provide a great boost of calories. 
     
  • Apples, pears and soft fruits are popular and are a great autumn food.
     
  • Insects such as mealworms or waxworms.


Fresh water is essential

Keep water bowls full of clean water and make sure bowls and feeders are placed far away from bushes and other areas where predators might hide.


Be Clean

Many garden birds die each year through the transmission of diseases. It’s important to clean all feeders weekly - water containers daily - and dry them before refilling.


Simple tasks like rotating feeding and drinking areas will help reduce the transmission of disease.


We've put together a fun visual guide about feeding garden birds (PDF 4,712KB) that you can print out and keep.


Find out what to do with an injured or sick bird, or if you’ve found a young bird.


What to do if you find a dead bird

Please report any dead or diseased birds in your garden to the Garden Wildlife Health project.


Garden Wildlife Health (GWH) has produced fact sheets on diseases affecting British birds such as Trichomonosis, Avian pox and Salmonellosis.