Feeding garden birds

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.

Here's what to feed them so you can enjoy having birds in your garden all year round.

What garden birds eat

  • Suitable seeds and grains - like nyjer, millet, oats, and sunflower seeds
  • Peanuts - but only 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 and boiled potatoes
  • Cheese
  • Uncooked and unsalted bacon rind
  • Raisins and sultanas
  • Net-free fat or suet balls - these 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

Important: If you have dogs, be careful with grapes, sultanas, raisins and some artificial sweeteners, as they're toxic to dogs.

Don't forget fresh water

Fresh, clean water is essential for birds, so keep water bowls full of clean water and make sure you place bowls and feeders far away from bushes and other areas where predators might hide.

Many garden birds die each year through the transmission of diseases, so it's important to clean all water containers daily and feeders weekly, drying them before refilling. Simple tasks like rotating feeding and drinking areas will help reduce the transmission of disease. Here's what to do if you find a sick or injured bird.

Keep wildlife safe from pets

When feeding wild animals in your garden, help keep them safe from cats.

  • Feeders up high - place feeders up high, well above the height which a cat can access and away from cat perches such as branches and walls.
  • Bird tables out in the open - ensure bird tables are in open areas, away from any cover that cats could use for stalking prey. If mounted on top of a pole, use material such as metal that cats cannot climb.
  • Keep food off the ground - avoid leaving food on the ground, as this can leave small mammals and birds vulnerable to cats.
  • Steep roof bird boxes - bird boxes with features like steep roofs stop cats sitting on top of them and waiting.
  • Houses for small mammals - provide refuges for small mammals, such as logs, stone and compost piles, or purpose-built refuges like toad or hedgehog houses.

Birds will benefit from being fed during some of the hardest times of the year - not just in the winter months. Take a look at our visual guide on how to feed and care for garden birds for more tips on seasonal feeding.

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