Gardening with Children

Family Zone

Give your feathered friends a helping hand with our guide to feeding your garden birds

Date Posted: 01 January 2015

Feeding and watching birds is a very popular hobby and it's a great way for children to begin to learn about wildlife.

Garden birds should be fed throughout the year; in Spring and Summer they benefit from extra food for the breeding season and their annual moult, in Autumn migrant birds arrive in our gardens hungry after their long journey, in Winter birds need extra food to keep warm and survive the cold weather especially when the ground is frozen, covered in snow or water over long periods.

It is very important to put food out regularly, birds use up a lot of their energy looking for food, they will return to a reliable supply of food on an almost daily basis, if that supply is not there they will waste valuable energy searching elsewhere. In very cold weather when natural food supplies are exhausted, birds that you may not usually see (Redwings, Fieldfare) become bolder and will visit your gardens looking for food you may even see a rare bird.

Bird Feeders and Bird Food

There are many different bird feeders available in various sizes and designs.

Seed & Peanut Feeder 

NUT FEEDERS are made from rigid steel mesh of approx. 6mm, this is large enough to prevent birds from damaging their beaks but it will only allow them to take out small pieces of nut, thus ensuring that young birds do not choke on whole or large pieces.

Peanuts are high in fat, buy certified peanuts from a reputable supplier as some poor quality peanuts can contain the natural toxin called Aflatoxin which can kill birds, never give birds salted or dry roasted peanuts.

Peanuts are a favourite food of Tits, Greenfinches, Sparrows, Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Siskins, crushed nuts are favoured by Robins, Dunnocks and Wrens.

The Adventurer Feeder

SEED FEEDERS often consist of a clear cylindrical tube with feeding ports and perching rings at the bottom of the feeder. Fill with Sunflower Seeds, Sunflower Hearts (both are high energy foods) or seed mixtures specifically for seed feeders.

Seed mixes can attract lots of species; House Sparrows, Dunnocks, Finches and Collared Doves favour small seeds such as millet, Blackbirds favour flaked maize, Tits and Greenfinches favour sunflower seeds and crushed peanuts.

Nyjer Seed Feeder

NYJER SEED FEEDERS have very small feeding ports to control the flow of seed and minimise waste, although it is very fine Nyjer Seed is rich in oil and highly nutritious.

Nyjer Seed is a favourite of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Siskins.

10 Fat Ball Feeding Ring

FAT BALL/CAKE FEEDERS are designed to hold fat balls or fat cakes always remove any nylon mesh bags before placing them in your feeders, these bags are a hazard to wildlife and birds can become entangled and injured. Fat Cakes can also be put on to all Bird Tables whole or broken up.

Fat Balls and Cakes are popular with all birds especially the Tit family.

Wooden Peanut Butter Feeder

PEANUT BUTTER FEEDERS will provide your birds with a nutritious, high energy treat, refills are available in different flavours (original, with nuts, with mealworms, with insects) which are specially formulated for birds, do not give the birds peanut butter for human consumption as it has a very high salt content.

They are a favourite of the Tit family.

 Mealworms for Birds

Live Food Feeding Bowl

MEALWORMS are an important source of protein and extremely beneficial for young chicks and adults throughout the winter when insects are scarce. Serve your mealworms in a container with smooth, vertical sides so that they cannot escape.

The Robin is often the first to the dish but they attract lots of birds including Wrens, Dunnocks, Tits, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Starlings and House Sparrows.

Kew Bromfield Hanging Bird Table - Robins, Blackbirds and Thrushes

BIRD TABLES are available in many different designs; freestanding, hanging, wall mounted or ground. Bird tables that have a roof will give protection to birds from predators and keep the food dry, it is important that all tables allow any water to drain off this will help to prevent food going bad and make them easier to clean.
 
Square Ground Bird Table

GROUND BIRD TABLES are especially useful for ground feeding and larger birds such as Blackbirds, Thrushes and Starlings, they will still be used by smaller birds too. Elevating the food off the ground reduces the risk of hygiene problems, moving the table around the garden avoids the build up of any waste food or droppings, only put out enough food that will be eaten to avoid attracting vermin. 

Ceramic Hanging Bird Bath Water Dish

BIRD BATHS provide your birds with an important supply of fresh water for drinking and bathing throughout the year, they should been cleaned out regularly and replaced with fresh water daily especially during warm weather and freezing conditions. 

Where to position your feeders

Bird Tables should be positioned in a sheltered site and where birds have a good all round view ideally about 2 metres from a small bush where birds can perch and see if it is safe to feed, avoid dense hedges or fences where cats can easily get to them, don’t forget to site feeders where you can watch and enjoy the birds from your window.

Ground Guard - Large Mesh

Fat Ball & Suet Feeder Guardian

Unwanted Guests

Cats, Squirrels and large birds (crows, magpies) can become pests, Squirrel proof hanging bird feeders are widely available they have a large outer mesh guard protecting the feeders, some are available with slippery domes. If squirrels and cats are a problem on your bird table enclose the post with a section of smooth plastic pipe, ground bird tables can be protected with an outer cage.

Hygiene

All Bird Tables/Feeders/Baths and equipment should be regularly cleaned with a mild disinfectant, rinse them out thoroughly and leave to completely dry out before refilling. Wash all bird feeders etc. outside with separate cleaning utensils, wear gloves and always wash your hands when you have finished.

Sit down, relax and watch natures live show - there is nothing more rewarding than watching birds eating the food that you have put out and knowing that you are playing a big part in their survival.

 

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