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.

What garden birds eat

  • Suitable seeds and grains (like nyjer, millet, oats, and sunflower seeds)
  • Peanuts 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 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

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

Great and Blue Tit at garden feeder. © iStock

Feed garden birds all year round

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.

Fresh water is essential for birds

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.

Keep bird feeders and baths clean

Many garden birds die each year through the transmission of diseases. 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.

Found 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 away from any cover that cats could use for stalking prey and instead in open areas and 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 to stop cats sitting on top of them and waiting.

Houses for small mammals

Provide refuges for small mammals such as log, stone and compost piles, or purpose-built refuges like toad or hedgehog houses.

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