Monday, September 3, 2018

Bird Feeding Guide


Providing food for birds contributes to the overall success and longevity of our wild birds in Britain. But, it's important to remember some simple rules when offering wild bird feed to help attract a kaleidoscope of species.

• It is important that once you've started feeding wild birds, that you continue all year round as wild birds will begin to see your garden as a regular hotspot of nutrients.

• According to the BTO, experts on all things birdy, feeding birds during the cooler months is a priority as wild birds will need to stay plump to ensure survival.

• Birds tend to feed early morning and late afternoon, especially during winter, so it's important to check that there is bird feed available during these times.

• Of course, additional feeding is highly recommended all year round, particularly during the breeding season early spring where parents will be on the hunt to find feed for their young brood as well as themselves.

Feeders or Bird Tables
The type of feeder or the way in which you offer your wild bird feed tends to determine the type of species you will attract. Using a standard mixed bird feed on a bird table or on the ground will attract many of the more common wild bird species. Feeders will tend to attract smaller birds that can cling onto either a mesh outer or perch. Plus, to attract a wider range of wild birds, you could begin to introduce specialist feeders such as Nyger Feeders that are designed to take the tiny Nyger Seed, which are a particular favourite with finches.

Get up close to wild birds as they feed using a window feeder. Available in many different varieties, they are perfect for recognising species and watching their individual character traits.

Whichever method of feeding you choose, albeit ground, table or feeder it's important to remember that hygiene is paramount. Ideally, feeders should be cleaned every time we refill them to prevent the build-up of bacteria that could cause disease to spread amongst our wild birds. Check out our guide to Keeping it Clean for advice about how to clean your feeders. To help prevent this further, there are a number of feeders available including our Heavy-Duty Swivel Top feeders and the BTO Heavy-Duty Feeders, which boast an innovative FeedSafe™ biocidal coating which kills bacteria on contact. It is also important that we provide clean, fresh water all year round. It is possible to purchase Ice Free for Bird Baths to stop water in bird baths freezing over winter.

What to feed, when?
Winter is the hardest time for our wild birds as the need to find food when nature's larder is at its lowest, combined with long, cold nights and short days for foraging. During this season, fatty, calorie-laden wild bird feeds such as snack balls, blocks or semi-moist treats and even wild bird seed mixed with semi-moist suet pellets, are popular addition and make for the best supplements in winter. You can purchase fat balls either with or without nets. If you do choose to use netted snack balls it is critical to watch the birds at all times as their claws can become tangled in the nylon. If this is not practical, then we recommend using un-netted fat balls within a fat ball holder every time!

During winter, the demand to top up feeders can seem endless. However, there are some simple tricks and cheap alternatives you can offer alongside your usual bird seed and fat snacks.

• Bulk out your usual wild bird seed with a cheaper filler use as suet pellets, peanut granules, uncooked oats, sultanas or dried mealworms. Plus, this will add much needed protein and carbohydrates to their diets.

• Offer your leftovers such as dried fruit, raw, unsalted bacon rind, and grated hard cheese or left over fruit such as apples, plums and pears, crushed or soaked biscuits and finely chopped remnants at the bottom of the cereal box. Avoid any cooked meats or fats as they can clog feathers and never offer milk as birds cannot digest it.

• Think long term and make your garden a haven for wild birds and wildlife alike by planting bird friendly plants, trees and shrubs that will provide a feast of plump berries, fruit and seeds.

• Buy in bulk. The more Wild Bird Feed you buy the greater the savings. Plus, bags of Wild Bird Feed over 12kg are VAT free in the UK.

Which Feed?
With so many feeds available it can be difficult to know which one is the best to offer. Here is our simple guide to the basic and most commonly used wild bird feeds.

Wild Bird Seed Blends
Probably the most common and easily offered, there are hundreds of varieties of wild bird mixes and straight seeds to choose from. The key is knowing which species you'd like to attract or have in your area, and how you would like to offer the feed.

Using a basic seed mix that will appeal to a large variety of common species, such as our Wild Bird Special mix or All Seasons blend, which are packed full of nutrient rich seeds and grains, are a great start. These types of loose seed mixes can be combined with other fillers (see above) to bulk out and can be offered either in a seed feeder or either a bird table or the ground.

To tempt in more varieties you could begin to include specialist feeds that appeal to the specific preferences of a species or are welcome at that time of year. For example, our free-flowing Feeder Banquet, as the name suggests, is a sumptuous mix of high quality, energy-rich ingredients and is a particular favourite with Tits, Siskins and Greenfinches.

It is also important to consider the needs of the wild birds you'd like to attract into your garden. Robins, Thrushes and Blackbirds are all ground feeders so it's important to offer an alternative feeding location for these species and an appropriate feed. An all-round, best seller for us is our Goldencrest mix. Suitable for feeders, bird tables or ground, this mix is not only nutritious, it is husk-free which means no waste and much less risk of unwanted plants germinating in your garden.

Seed blends that contain suet treats are particularly welcome during the colder months.

The brilliant and very popular Best of British mix is perfect for attracting a range of wild birds such as Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Wrens and Collared Doves (to name a few). As the name suggests, this highly nutritious blend replicates the natural feeds found in our countryside and is wholly sourced from the UK, supporting our British farmers. Best served on a bird table or on the ground, it's a fantastic all-rounder and is great value for money too.

Straight Seeds
Straight seeds range from Peanuts to Sultanas and Bogena to Nyger Seeds. Each has its very own special qualities that benefit diet of our wild birds.

Peanuts are probably the most popular straight feed to buy. Oil-rich, Peanuts are a high-energy food source and favoured by a variety of species including Woodpeckers, Nuthatches and Tits. It is important to remember that if you do want to offer peanuts, they must be contained within a wire mesh feeder, as they can be a choking hazard for small or young birds. Peanut Granules or crushed peanuts are a great alternative to Peanuts and are quite safe to be offered in feeders, on the ground or bird table on their own or mixed with other feeds. To help attract woodpeckers and nuthatches into your garden, why not try pushing peanuts into natural nooks or drill holes into old logs or fallen branches. Avoid salted peanuts when serving these options to the wild birds in your garden.

Bogena Softbill Food is a high quality, complete feed for the fruit and insect loving species, which thrive on a rich, moist mix. Crammed with proteins, carbohydrates, fats, dried seeds, berries and insects you can feed on its own with another blend created for softbills such as Songbird Delight or Goldensong.

Irresistible to Goldfinches, the tiny, oil-rich Nyger Seed or thistle seed are full of goodness and so small in fact that it's best to serve in a specialised Nyger Seed Feeder with little holes that reduce wastage. Goldfinches in particular are a fan of Nyger, but they are also likely to attract Siskin and Greenfinch too. In no time, your entire garden will be awash with these colourful wild birds.

Sunflower Seeds are usually the first choice for wild birds, as they don't have an outer coat or husk to peel making them an easy meal. Considered the ultimate straight food, they top the list for combining nutritional value and high-energy content with ease of feeding and versatility. Offer them in a feeder either on their own or mixed with another feed, on the ground or a table.

A great value, year-round staple, are the Black Sunflower Seeds. Our Black Sunflower Seeds have thin outer husks for easy access to their nutrient rich insides. Very popular with a wide range of species, they are perfect mixed with other feeds or safe to offer on their own.

Mealworms & Waxworms
Packed full of protein and moisture, plump and juicy mealworms and waxworms are a great addition to boost the diets of wild birds. Particularly helpful over winter when worms, snails, slugs and other insects are in short supply.

Live Mealworms
Mealworms are the most popular live food used in Britain for garden birds. The larvae of the Flour Beetle are a good source of protein and fat. Great for attracting a range of wild birds including Robins and Thrushes, they can be fed all year-round, but particularly in the spring when parent birds are looking to feed their young. Store them in a cool, dry place such as the garage, shed or even your fridge! Both can be served in a ground feeder or on a bird table. Usually when you order live mealworms they come with a small amount of food. Getting in some additional live mealworm food to help keep them fresher for longer is always handy.

Live Waxworms
Waxworms (Galleria mellonella) are the larvae of the Greater Wax Moth and get their name because they are most commonly found in honeycombs of beeswax. Their soft body is easily digestible and very nutritious. They are rich in protein, moisture and fat, making them an even more juicy meal. Full of protein to help birds over the winter months, especially when worms, snails, slugs and other insects are in short supply.

Dried Mealworms
Live feeds are bursting with protein, but for those of us who are a little squeamish at the thought of handling these wrigglers, a great alternative is dried mealworms. Remember to soak dried mealworms in water before you serve outside of a feeder as they tend to fly away, plus this helps further hydrate the birds. You could even bulk out your usual feeder seed with dried mealworms for even greater variety and nutrients for your feathered friends. It's important to discard of any discoloured mealworms you may find as they could carry diseases such as salmonella.

Coconut
As a special treat, why not add a fresh, cut open coconut into your feeding routine. Simply break open and drain the coconut, hang on a branch or on a feeding station and watch as Tits will flock into the garden to enjoy! Once the coconut shell has been hollowed out by those greedy Tits, why not fill with a homemade fatball recipe.

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