If you’re an avid avian fan, or just a birdie novice, there is plenty you can do for flying visitors through the colder months and the breeding season. Your feathered friends will be all too happy to flock to your garden if there's some tasty grub on offer, for starters! We've covered all the bird basics to get you started.
Peanut feeders - Peanuts are a high energy treat, packed full of all the essential oils that birds need to survive. It is generally better to offer them in a mesh feeder, as smaller birds are at risk from choking if the nust are offered whole. Peanut feeders come as a mesh cylinder to allow the birds to peck at the tasty treat. These feeders can vary in size and style, but make sure to hang them out of the way of squirrels, who will be all too happy to help themselves to the birds' snack.
Seed feeders - Similar to peanut feeders, seed feeders mostly come as cylindrical tubes with between two to six feeding ports and perches so the birds can tuck in. There will be some variation between styles and sizes of the feeders, but the feed should filter down to the bottom of the tube so you'll know when to fill it up! Better your chances of seeing different breeds by opting for a seed mix, as the assortment can cater for an array of beaky tastes.
Niger feeders - Niger seed is a tiny seed that comes from Africa, and it can often be mistaken for thistle seed. Due to the small nature the seeds, they can't be used in a normal seed feeder. A niger seed feeder will keep all the seed in a handy cylindrical tube to minimise mess; you could offer niger in a ground feeder as well. It is a favourite for finches, and goldfinches in particular!
Suet and fat ball feeders - Suet is a delicious fatty treat! It works as a great high energy boost to help birds through the colder months. By offering fat balls or suet cake in your garden, you could attract the rare treecreeper to make an appearance, or even a great spotted woodpecker or two! Suet cake can be offered in a specific rectangular feeder, where as fat ball feeders tend to be cylindrical in shape with wide gaps to allow the birds to peck away happily.
Squirrel proof feeders - Squirrels can often become furry fiends when it comes to bird feed. If a squirrel can see the food, and get to it, they will most certainly help themselves! You can get specific squirrel busting feeders that come with a metal cage surrounding them, leaving just enough room for the birds to get to the seed or peanuts. Some clever feeders will even use the weight of the squirrel against it to close off the feeding ports once the acrobatic mammal clambers onto it. Try to place it out of their reach if you can, so as to not give them a challenge!
Bird tables - If you want to offer a wide mixture of feed, from seed to leftovers, a bird table gives you the ideal place to leave them out for the birds to snack on. Remember to only offer as much food as the birds can eat though, otherwise you might have some unwanted visitors making their way to your garden for whatever is left over at the end of the day.
After taking the time to carefully select what bird food you would like on your garden menu, the last thing you’ll want is for it to go bad. If you leave your feed in the bag, there’s a likelihood that it could go damp or mouldy. To ensure that it lasts for as long as possible, try to store it somewhere cool and dry. If storing your feed in a shed, try to make sure it’s one without windows, or to leave it out of direct sunlight.
To stop any unwanted diners helping themselves, keep your seed and feed in a sealed container. This will help to keep out any unwanted moisture as well, and will extend the life of your bird food! There are specific bird food bins available; alternatively you could make use of plastic containers, or even pay a visit to your local hardware store to get some storage boxes with a lid for bigger bags of feed.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, it can go mouldy, or unwanted diners such as mice might have found their way in. Remember to check your feed often so you can keep an eye on whether it’s running out; if you check it regularly, you can ensure it stays in tip top condition.
Maintaining good bird food hygiene is crucial to ensure that your flock keeps coming back to your garden to feed. To start with, offer your feed from a feeder or a bird table, rather than putting it on the floor or another surface for the birds to help themselves. Not only will the feeders be easier to clean, but if you put food on the floor anything that isn’t eaten could attract unwanted vermin such as mice and rats. Only put out as much food as the birds will eat.
Make sure to stay on top of cleaning, too. By washing your feeders and water containers regularly, you can keep them hygienic. Move where you place your feeders from time to time to avoid a buildup of droppings; if a good deal of them accumulate, you'll need to disinfect the area to prevent disease. Don't be afraid to take a scrubbing brush to your feeders regularly to make sure they're nice and clean! When cleaning outside, remember to wear gloves at all times, and wash your hands once you've finished.
You can attract a whole variety of birds to your garden depending on the feed that you choose to offer; seed mixes are a fantastic choice if you're after a range of birds, whereas something like suet fat balls will tempt rarer birds such as treecreepers to your feeders. To look at what food would be best to offer in your garden, have a gander at our bird feed guide to get you started, or to just see what other feed to you could offer the birds.