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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!


What should you feed garden birds?

  • 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.

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

Attract wild birds to your garden

Feed the birds in your garden, and help attract new ones, with our wild bird feeder range, including bird feeders, wild bird food and bird baths.

Buy our wild bird food and accessories

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. 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

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 (4.56 MB) 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.


Keep wildlife safe from pets

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

  • Place feeders up high, well above the height which a cat can access and away from cat perches such as branches and walls.
     
  • 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.
     
  • Avoid leaving food on the ground as this can leave small mammals and birds vulnerable to cats.
     
  • Bird boxes with features like steep roofs to stop cats sitting on top of them and waiting.
     
  • Provide refuges for small mammals such as log, stone and compost piles, or purpose built refuges like toad and hedgehog houses.
     

Do you have a cat? Find out how you help prevent cats from hunting wildlife.


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

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