Birdfeeding through the Year
At FINK we encourage birdfeeding through the year – we’ve sold wild bird food since we started out. We now we sell it loose, supporting our reduced-plastic ethos at our Home & Nature store. If you bring your own container we’ll re-fill it, and we’ll give you money off into the bargain!
When do I need to feed?
Our bird food buyers fall into three categories. There are the summer feeders who enjoy enjoy the birds when THEY are in the garden. The winter feeders who want to make sure the birds have enough food to survive through to spring. And year round feeders just want to cover all bases!
What’s best? Well, we say it’s always better to do something than nothing at all!
But what do experts think? The RSPB says that winter feeding is most important but that “food shortages can occur at any time” so recommend putting food out all year round. You can read their advice here. The other major UK authority, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), takes a similar line in their excellent feeding guide. Much the same advice is given by most “expert amateurs” and international conservation organisations, so “birdfeeding through the year” is the way to go.
And it’s not just food. All of the experts remind us that birds need access to fresh water. In winter natural sources may be frozen, in summer they may dry up, so make sure you have a dish, bowl, pond or bath in the garden and keep it full of fresh water
The easier you make it for the birds to find food in your garden, the better the quantity and variety of birds you will have coming to visit. And as we all enjoy watching the birds, that’s a real win-win!
What to feed
You’ll find a huge range of options in the commercial bird feed market, falling generally into three categories
“Straights” are single-variety foods
Mixes combine multiple types of seed, grain, and sometimes special additives, to cater for a variety of different bird types
Manufactured foods like fat balls, suet blocks, pellets and logs, combine a selection of basic foods into a single block.
Each type of food has its own application. Straights tend to be the best value but unless you are prepared to have multiple feeders, you may find that you are able to attract a wider variety of visitors with a good quality mix.
Again, the BTO website provides an excellent feeding guide containing more detail. Our own suggestion if you’re starting out is to provide
- one feeder containing sunflower hearts (attactive to a wide variety of bird species)
- one containing a good quality mix
- and supplement those with some form of fat-containing food – fatballs and suet blocks are the easiest to use.
How much do I need to put out?
Don’t put out more food than the birds will consume in 2-3 days. Stale food will be unattractive to birds but may invite unwanted visitors including rats and mice. Bacteria and moulds also love old, damp food and will develop rapidly, risking harm to the birds we are trying to protect. If you find your feeders are emptying very quickly but you don’t see many birds visiting (especially if you find your feeders on the ground or showing signs of damage) “something else” may have found them. This may include rodents. If this happens, consider putting less food out at a time or change the location of your feeders. It may be worth buying some caged feeders designed to be less attractive to pests.
Can I use kitchen scraps rather than buying food?
It is perfectly OK to use waste from the kitchen to supplement bought bird food but do take care:
- Only put out fresh food and clear away any that isn’t taken quickly.
- Avoid food containing large quantities of salt as this can be very harmful.
- Fatty foods (including cheese, meat trimmings and pastry) are great supplies of energy (but watch that salt!)
- Bread is perfectly accespable, but may attract less welcome species like crows, pigeons and starlings, as well as rodents. In addition, bread is filling but doesn’t provide a nutritional balance so do ensure there is access to a range of other food items.
- Cut up fruit (apples, pears, berries), cooked potato and other root vegetables are all fine, but again watch out for vermin!