Choosing feeders and providing water
- Use wire mesh feeders for peanuts and seed feeders for other seed
- Specially designed feeders are needed for the tiny niger seed, which is loved by goldfinches
- Food placed on wire mesh held just off the ground will entice ground-feeding birds such as robins and dunnocks
- Place fat blocks in wire cages. Plastic nets around fat balls should be removed as birds, such as woodpeckers, can get caught up in the mesh. Create your own fat blocks by melting suet into moulds such as coconut shells or logs with holes drilled in them
- Keep feeders clean and, if possible, change their position in the garden to avoid fouling the ground underneath and to limit the spread of diseases
Water is essential for bathing and drinking throughout the year. Provide water in a shallow container, preferably with sloping sides and no more than 5cm (2in) deep. During frosty weather, remove the ice so birds can continue to have access to water.
Use different foods and recipes to entice a range of birds. Although fat is important, also provide a grain mix or nuts to maintain a balanced diet. No-mess seed mixes are more expensive but the inclusion of de-husked sunflower hearts means there is less waste and debris under the feeder. Inferior mixes are often padded out with lentils and wheat.
Many birds have ‘favourite’ foods, so choosing certain types can effect what you see feeding in the garden. These are just some of the preferences:
- Insect cakes for tits
- Berry cakes for finches
- Finely chopped animal fat and grated cheese are welcomed by small birds, such as wrens
- Sparrows, finches and nuthatches enjoy prising the seeds out of sunflower heads. Also, leave seed heads on herbaceous plants overwinter
- Niger seed is liked by goldfinches
- Peanut cakes for starlings
- Fruit is favoured by thrushes and blackbirds. Scatter over-ripe apples, raisins and song-bird mixes on the ground for them. Consider planting berrying shrubs and trees, including favourites such as Malus, Sorbus, Cotoneaster and Pyracantha