Winter is a difficult time for birds. Not only do the harsher weather conditions make general life harder for our winged friends, but also, food is scarce, which is why it’s important to leave out bird food during this time of year.
But not just any bird food. It’s easy to pick up the cheapest feed at your local garden centre, but you should consider why it’s so cheap, and why this may not be a good choice for the birds that visit your garden.
All about bird food
There are different mixes of bird food for different times of year, different types of feeding station, and for different types of birds. Yes, this means a lot of variety and means more thought on your part, but a little bit of effort means that you’ll only need to determine which bird food you need once.
Avoid ‘chunky’ feed such as peanut chunks, as birds may accidentally feed these to their young, and never use nuts intended for humans as these may be covered in salt (which is toxic). Also try to avoid high fat foods, as these can melt in the summer heat and spoil the mix.
High energy and high fat mixes are great for winter birds, as this will help them digest and store the energy needed to get through the season. Chunks and whole nuts are suitable for winter as well, as birds won’t be looking after chicks at this time of year.
Different birds prefer different feeding stations. There are three common types: hanging feeders, tables and ground feeders. Which feed goes with which station depends on the type of bird that uses it; for example, hanging feeders can be accessed by blue tits, chaffinches, greenfinches and house sparrows, and therefore the mix should contain ingredients that these birds tend to eat. When it comes to ground mix, you can find mixes which contain rough-chopped seeds to stop the food germinating on the ground.
To find out about which birds prefer which foods, read on.
Why buy better bird feed?
Cheap bird food mixes are often bulked out with foods such as split peas, lentils and beans. However, only larger species can eat these ingredients dry, making them useless to smaller birds, who will just toss them to the ground (an easy way to waste money). You may also find other ingredients in cheap bird food such as wheat, which can be eaten by smaller birds, but they have no real nutritional value.
Buying bird food from a reputable, knowledgeable source will mean that you provide your local wild birds with safe and nutritional bird feed containing the correct ingredients. Richard Jackson’s Premum High Energy Bird Food is packed with nutritional value, featuring high energy ingredients that can be used throughout the year, but is ideal for winter birds.
Richard Jackson worked with leading bird food specialists to develop this new and improved mix, which appeals to a wide range of different birds. It provides birds with maximum energy and is designed to have minimum waste. Key ingredients are the high-energy suet pellets, calcium-rich oyster grit, and dried mealworms for extra protein.
Here’s a full list of all the ingredients included in the mix:
- Sunflower hearts
- Canary seed
- Nyjer seed
- Hemp seed
- Dried mealworms
- Berry suet
- Oat groats
- Red millet
- White millet
- Red dari
- White dari
- Peanut granules
- Oyster shell grits
Tips for better feeding
Clean your feeding station
Regularly cleaning your feeding station will help prevent nasty diseases from forming and spreading due to build up in bacteria. It will also help to discourage rats from coming to your garden.
Only put out the amount of food needed
This will help avoid a build up of food around the feeding station, which pertains to the above point.
Move your feeder regularly
Moving your feeding station every so often will help keep the area around it clean. It will also confuse pet cats and other predators, who may be getting too familiar with the location of the feeder.
7 birds and the feed mixes they prefer
Did I really make a bird food pizza? Yep. It’s a way to help you think about the foods that different birds like, and how they are a little bit like pizza toppings – we all have our own preferences!
I’ve picked out seven birds commonly found in UK gardens, and detailed which birds like which parts of this bird food pizza!
Robin – kibbled peanuts, dried mealworms, sunflower hearts, berry suet
Blackbird – kibbled peanuts, dried mealworms, oat groats, sunflower hearts, berry suet, white millet
Blue tit – kibbled peanuts, sunflower hearts, berry suet
Song thrush – oat groats, sunflower hearts, berry suet
Greenfinch – sunflower hearts, oat groats
Goldfinch – nyger seed, sunflower hearts
Sparrow – canary seed, sunflower hearts, white millet
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.