Feed the birds

Spring & summer strategies

The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) now advocate all year round feeding of garden birds. Many birds die during the breeding season because of natural food shortages. It's been shown that year round feeding gives them, and their resulting chicks, a better chance of survival.

Some spring & summer food suggestions

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One of the best foods you can provide for the parent birds to feed to their chicks are live mealworms. See below and the mealworm feeder page. Avoid putting peanuts, fatty foods and bread on your bird table at this time of year. If you buy mixed food, ensure that it does not contain whole peanuts as these can be harmful to small chicks. Don't forget that the parent birds will need to feed, as they will be using their energy to hunt for food for their ever hungry family! Black sunflower seeds or sunflower hearts, summer bird food mix, insectivorous mix, mild grated cheese etc. should all be fine to feed to the parent birds and their fledglings.

sunflower hearts mealworms mealwom feeder made from a drinks bottle
sunflower hearts - high energy food, rich in oils
mealworms - live food is essential for chicks
mealworms need to be kept dry

From our experience the best of the 'straight' foods are undoubtedly sunflower hearts i.e. sunflowers without the seed case. All birds, and garden mammals such as badgers relish them, and there is no waste. Our feeders are used by the birds all summer. The quietest season for visiting birds is autumn, when there is enough natural food on the hedgerows.

A selection of feeders

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metal seed ports are 'squirrel proof' niger seed - popular with goldfinches and siskins niger seed feeder a mealworm feeder made from am open fronted robin box
seed feeder
with metal ports
niger seed - a favourite
of goldfinches
niger seed feeder
mealworm feeder (ex robin box)

Suspended feeders are primarily used by agile birds such as tits, greenfinches, goldfinches and sparrows. Site your feeders safely, and preferably within easy reach of neighbouring trees or shrubs. Try and have feeders in several locations to minimize bottlenecks of birds at peak feeding times. Grey squirrels will soon gnaw their way through cheap feeders, so consider feeders with metal ports, to ensure maximum squirrel resistance. If goldfinches regularly visit your garden, the addition of niger seed will encourage them to return. Niger seed needs a specific feeder. A tray is useful to catch the spillages which can then be eaten by the goldfinches and other birds such as siskins.

The bird table, water supply and other tips to encourage birds

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provide fresh water for both drinking and bathing nest boxes - used by winter roosting birds cotoneaster rowan berries
make sure that water is always available
boxes encourage birds to raise their young
cotoneaster and rowan berries will be relished by garden birds. Also consider pyracantha, hawthorn, holly, rosehips, honeysuckle and wild privet

Not all birds are able to use feeders, so consider a bird table to encourage 'ground feeding' birds such as blackbirds, robins, thrushes, wrens, dunnocks and chaffinches. If cats are a problem this is a safer arrangement than feeding directly on the ground. Bird tables do not need to be a fancy arrangement; a simple board, with edges to stop the food blowing away is quite adequate. It's what you put on it that matters! Sultanas and raisins, grated cheese, bruised apples and pears, plus a varied seed mix will help to attract a wide range of birds and their young during the spring and summer months. Birds need a supply of clean, fresh water every day. They use the water for bathing and keeping their feathers in good condition. Clean the bird table and feeders regularly to prevent the spread of diseases. If you're lucky, nest boxes may be used in the spring. Birds prefer gardens that are not too tidy. So try and leave part of your garden as a wild area. Plant berry bearing shrubs such as cotoneaster, rowan or hawthorn so that birds will have food for the forthcoming autumn and winter.

All this effort does pay off. We're only 4 miles from the centre of Rochdale, but we counted more than 25 different species of birds in our small garden.

| See the wildlife gardening and wild flowers pages for more suggestions |
| Also the nest box page and sparrow terrace page for bird box plans and the
blue tit cam page that shows how to install a nest box camera |

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