It’s obvious to say, but winter and early spring are the most important times of the year to put food and water out for birds. At these times of year, natural food sources are in short supply and they need an extra helping hand. As wild birds roost at sunset, the earlier you feed them the better. A bird can lose up to 10% of its body fat keeping warm on a cold winter’s night, so ensuring they have a good feed before bed can really make a difference. But what else can we do to help keep birds fed?
Bird tables are really versatile. They suit many different species of wild birds and can be used for most types of food.
A straightforward tray will do the job suffice and you can opt for one with or without a roof (if you go without, then you must have a raised rim as this will help to keep the food on the table).
There should be small gaps at each corner of your bird table to help rainwater drain away (this also comes in handy for cleaning the table too as there may be droppings and unwanted, spoilt food).
There are a few bird tables on the market with quite elaborate designs, and whilst they look quite funky, you might want to stick to more of a traditional table as they are much (much!!) easier to clean.
There are many different types and sizes of feeders available, typically made from either plastic or metal. Feeders with cages around them will deter larger birds and squirrels, so keep that in mind when thinking about what wildlife creatures you want to see in your garden. When using a feeder for peanuts there are 2 things to keep in mind:
1) always use a rigid mesh style feeder (large pieces of nut will choke small birds, potentially killing them)
2) any peanuts you put out must be free from aflatoxin as this is poisonous to birds.
Choosing the Right Feeder
1) Seed feeders – these are round, transparent and with lots of holes to help birds easily reach their food. They’re designed for sunflower or mixed seeds and prove very popular with siskins, greenfinches and tits.
Niger on the other hand is a finer seed (popular with goldfinches and siskins) and needs to have a special type of seed feeder.
2) Peanut feeders – these are usually made of a steel mesh to prevent birds from biting off more than they can chew (literally!).
3) Hopper type feeders – these are trays or flat surfaces suited to cereal-type mixes of seeds (although any general seed mix can be used). These feeders generally attract a similar range of birds as a bird table, but make sure it drains properly as you don’t want old food to build up.
4) Be creative and make your own – it’s easier than you think! You could use half-coconuts (or something of a similar shape), hang it from a tree, bird table or bracket on the wall and sit back and relax as house sparrows, tits and greenfinches flock to your garden.
Peanuts and fat balls are often sold in mesh bags. It may be tempting to try and put out bird food in a mesh bag, however you should never do this as it could cause the bird’s feet to get trapped. Rather use appropriate feeders or simply place on a hard surface. Just make sure to change your fat balls in warmer months as the contents can go rancid if it gets too hot or is left out for too long.
What are the Alternatives?
If you don’t want to invest in a table or fancy hanging feeder, you can always scatter food on the ground. Birds such as thrushes and dunnocks prefer to feed from the floor.
You can scatter food directly on the lawn or use a ground feeding tray with its own hopper. Make sure you change the area where you scatter the food every few days and avoid putting out more food than needed as spoilt food can easily upset the stomach of a wild bird… or you could end up attracting rats!!
Wherever you feed and however you feed, do make sure that you consider predators. Bird tables or feeders too close to bushes could offer the perfect hiding place for a hunting cat for example. However, placing feeders near thorny or spikey plants – like Holly bushes could offer the perfect protection.
As always – if you need any help and advice, please feel free to pop in store. Not only do we have a fantastic selection of products at reasonable prices, we have a team of knowledgeable and friendly staff to boot!