What to feed wild birds

What to feed wild birdsFeeding birds can be as rewarding for you as it is for them. By using feeding tables or hanging bird feeders you can bring flocks of birds to your garden, helping them get all the nutrients they need.

When the weather gets colder and the nights get darker (and longer!) we spend our time thinking about when we can exercise the dog, or when we can run the food out to the rabbit hutch. Or has the cat come back yet?  But quite often we forget about the wild birds – and they really need our help at this time of year.  Did you know they can lose up to 10% of their body weight in just one night trying to keep warm?

What should you feed wild birds?

If you want to attract birds to your garden then you will need to put down a mixture of different foods and, by regularly topping up your bird feeding, stations you can be sure to get lots of visitors every day.

Here are some ideas of tasty treats that wild birds can’t get enough of:

1. Fat balls or suet balls.

2. Mealworms or waxworms.

3. Grains & seeds (millet, oats, sunflower & niger)

4. Peanuts (make sure they’re unsalted, fresh and sold for human consumption or by a feed shop. To stop younger birds from choking you should put the peanuts in a wire mesh feeder.)

5. Cooked rice or pasta, boiled potatoes, uncooked & unsalted bacon rind, cheese, sultanas & raisins, pears, apples & other soft fruits (yes, really!)

Remember if you’re feeding wild birds, put out bowls of clean water too (they’re just as thirsty as they are hungry).

What do different breeds like to eat?

There are many different breeds of wild birds and you may find that your garden attracts lots of them at any one time, but the type of food you put out really can affect who comes to visit and who doesn’t.

Small seeds such as millet will attract dunnocks, finches, house sparrows and collared doves. Feeding niger seeds on the other hand will likely attract goldfinches, blue tits, siskins and great spotted woodpeckers.

Crushed peanuts are great for attracting robins, coal tits, and nuthatches (coal tits and nuthatches tend to hoard their nuts).

Believe it or not, but cooked rice can be a tasty treat to a range of wild birds, particularly during the winter months. Larger birds such as pheasants, doves, and pigeons will all eat uncooked rice, however this is not likely to attract any other types of bird.

Birds such as wrens, dunnocks and robins can eat fermented dairy products such as cheese, so putting out grated mild cheese is a good way of getting their attention.

Mealworms will attract blue tits, robins, and may even bring in pied wagtails.

What should you avoid feeding them?

Just like us, there are a few foods that birds either cannot or shouldn’t consume.  Any seed mixtures that contain beans, split peas, dried rice or lentils are only deemed suitable to larger species of wild birds.

Do not use salted or dry roasted peanuts as they contain a natural toxin called aflatoxin. And you should never give milk to birds either. They cannot digest it, giving them a serious stomach upset (it may even kill them).

How much does it cost? 

Birdseed and other foods such as suet balls are relatively inexpensive. Mealworms are a little more expensive so you may only want to use these as a treat.

At Rooke’s we’re proud to offer our very own range of wild bird food for various budgets:

  • Premium Grain Free Wild Bird Mix 2kg – £2.69
  • Sunflower Hearts 2kg - £3.49
  • Wild Bird Peanuts 2kg – £4.99
  • Premium Wild Bird Fat Balls (Tub of 50) – £5.99
  • Suet Block Value Pack 10pk – Mealworm & Insect – £7.99
  • Dried Mealworms 1.5kg – £24.99

Why not pop in to see us in store for advice on keeping the wild birds fed and watered?