Food for birds

Long tailed tits and fat ball feeder
Long Tailed Tits feeding from fat balls

Songbirds eat a variety of foods with different species favouring and needing different foods. Providing natural and supplementary food sources is a popular way to encourage songbirds to your garden. 

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There are many types of bird feeders available to buy or to build for yourself. Each will suit different birds and the placement and the kind of food will affect the species you are likely to attract. 

Platform birdfeeders or tables: These can be free standing or hung from trees and are suitable for most species of bird. All that's needed is a simple tray with or without a roof. Make sure there is a raised rim to keep the food in with a gap at each end to allow rainwater to drain. Ideally keep the roof close to the platform to minimise access for larger birds and predators 

Seed feeders: usually a transparent tubular container with holes through which the birds come get the seeds. Designed for sunflower seeds kernels and seed mixes 

Peanut Feeders: made of steel mesh with gaps of about 6MM which allows the birds to gain access to the peanuts without them hurting their beaks or choking on large pieces of nuts 

Open/ground feeders: Anything from a plate or mesh basket placed on the floor or on a bird feeding stand. They come in many different forms, from very basic to elaborate ones with cages to protect the birds from predators.  

Fat Ball/ Suet Feeders: with a large wire mesh to enable access to this high energy fat source especially popular in winter .  

Tree sparrows on hanging seed feeder
Goldfinches eating Nyger Seed

what to feed birds

Songbirds eat a variety of foods with different species favouring and needing different foods the most common forms of nutrition include: 

  • Insects including bugs, spiders, ants, bees, slugs, butterflies and worms

  • buds, pollen and grasses 

  • fruit berries and nuts 

  • grains 

You can provide this food through a combination of natural food sources from the plants in your garden and from shop bought bird food and other foodstuffs. 

Natural food sources

Providing a natural supply of food through the plants in your garden will be a great source of all year round nutrition. 

Supplementary food to use in feeders;
There are lots of different types of seeds and foods on the market and the ones you choose will determine which bird you will attract. Buying a small bird mixture or high protein mixture is a good place to start and will attract the most variety into the garden.   Always aim to buy a high-quality mix to minimise the junk content which can be used to fill out cheaper mixes and which is not beneficial or often liked by the birds' 

to attract more specific sonGbirds

Peanuts - loved by all but ensure used in a specialist feeder or chopped up to avoid risk of choking especially in juveniles

Nyger/niger seeds -
oil rich high in protein seeds to attract species such as goldfinches, siskins, greenfinches and redpolls.  

Dried mealworms -
a great natural source of energy, loved by many like blackbirds, tits, thrushes, wrens, dunnocks and especially robins.

Fat balls and suet balls and blocks - i
deal in winter and also easy to make yourself 

In addition to shop bought food you could also try some of these: 

Chop up fresh apples, pears etc. Dried fruit can make a great addition to seed mixes. Blackbirds and thrushes are particularly partial to fruit.

Bacon rind unsmoked:
(chopped up small)

Lard or vegetable fat –
for mixing oats, seeds etc for DIY fat balls 

where to place feeders and bird baths

Think about the best location to keep the birds safe from potential predators: 

  • away from walls and fences  

  • near hedges trees and large dense shrubs to provide safe nearby cover and escape routes 

  • consider adding cages around feeders to protect the food from larger birds and grey squirrels

  • place near prickly shrubs and trees 

  • at least 10 metres away from nest boxes to reduce nest box predation rates, click to see our Gardens for Birds research:

bird feeders in hedge
Tree sparrows enjoying peanuts
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