As the colours of autumn descend on the UK, our local bird populations embark on a quest for sustenance before the winter chill sets in. Providing food for wild birds is important, as it helps them prepare for the colder months ahead. However, there are some foods that are more useful to birds than others at this time of year. Read on to find out what they are.
Autumn’s bird buffet: What to feed during this season
Mealworms are a favourite among many UK bird species. Blue tits, robins and blackbirds readily devour these protein-packed morsels. Mealworms are particularly valuable during autumn when birds require extra energy to prepare for the winter.
Peanuts are a high-energy food source that attracts a wide range of birds, including wrens, great tits and dunnocks. You can offer them whole or as peanut butter, which can be smeared onto specially designed feeders.
CJ Wildlife has a range of carefully sourced peanuts for birds, which are far more suitable than peanuts bought at the supermarket (that may contain too much salt). You can also find peanut cakes and specially designed peanut butter.
Fat balls, often made from a mixture of suet and seeds, are a staple in the diet of many garden birds. Species like great tits and long-tailed tits flock to these high-calorie treats, providing them with the necessary fat reserves to survive colder temperatures.
A mix of seeds, such as sunflower seeds, nyjer seeds, and mixed bird seed, appeals to a variety of birds. Smaller birds will appreciate smaller seeds, and vice versa.
As autumn brings an abundance of berries, birds like thrushes, blackbirds and fieldfares appreciate ripe fruits like apples, pears and plums. You can grow these as trees in your garden, or leave the fruits out on feeders as a fresh and natural supplement.
When the ground is too frosty to look for worms, birds will turn to berries to give them sustenance. Autumn berries – such as blackberries, hawthorn and elderberries – contain plenty of antioxidants, boosting their overall health.
Caring for wild birds in autumn
Regularly clean bird feeders and the surrounding areas. Leftover food can become mouldy or contaminated, potentially harming the birds and spreading disease. Scrub feeders with hot, soapy water, and rake or sweep the ground beneath them to remove old food and bird droppings.
Ensure that a source of fresh water is available nearby. Birds need water for drinking and bathing, even during the cooler months. If it gets frosty and the water in your birdbath starts to freeze, try adding a ping pong ball to the water to help keep the water moving and stop it from icing over.
Position your bird feeders in sheltered spots, away from direct sunlight, wind and predators. This offers a safe and inviting dining experience for our feathered friends.
Use different types of feeders to cater to various bird species. Mesh feeders, tube feeders, and platform feeders can all attract different types of birds.
Be mindful of the changing seasons. As autumn turns to winter, consider offering foods that are higher in fat to help birds maintain their energy and body heat.
Keep cats indoors
If you have a pet cat, keep it indoors or use a bird-friendly collar with a bell to reduce the risk of predation on visiting birds.
Feeding wild birds in autumn is a wonderful way to connect with nature and support local bird populations during a crucial time of year. By providing a varied and nutritious diet that includes mealworms, peanuts, fat balls and other suitable foods, you can help birds prepare for the colder months ahead. Remember to maintain clean feeders, provide fresh water, and take other steps to ensure the wellbeing of the birds that grace your garden. In doing so, you’ll contribute to the conservation of these beautiful creatures and create a bird-friendly oasis in your own outdoor space.
Special discount for Plant Geeks: Use code PLANTGEEK10 at the checkout for 10% off all CJ Wildlife products
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 – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.