Feed Wild Birds
Source Garden Bird Detectives Exhibition courtesy of BirdWatch Ireland
Peanuts are the most popular food for garden birds and attract a wide range of species. When feeding during the spring and summer ensure all peanuts are fed from a mesh peanut feeder, as whole peanuts can be harmful to young birds.
Sunflower seed is a highly nutritious and popular food for birds, especially the tits and finches. The ‘black-shell’ variety tends to be more popular with birds than the ‘striped shell’ type, but both will be eaten. ‘Mixed Wildbird Seed’ is very popular with pigeons and doves, but other garden birds tend to avoid it as they find it hard to digest.
Don’t waste any fat! It’s a nutritious food for garden birds. Lumps of suet may be hung out, and meat trimmings, bacon rinds and table scraps will also be eaten gratefully. The large ‘Fat Balls’ which can be bought in pet shops often prove highly popular – you can also make your own home-made version by pouring melted fat over bread or cake scraps in a yogurt carton mould to make ‘bird cake’. This can be made even more nutritious if some seeds, nuts, oatmeal, grated cheese or dried fruits are added.
Often overlooked, fruit will attract several species of bird which may not otherwise visit your garden. Apples and pears cut in half and placed on the ground will attract Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, and in particularly hard weather they might bring in Redwings and Fieldfares. Spearing cut apples onto the ends of branches will also attract Blackcaps. Smaller fruit such as grapes will also be taken. A coconut sawn in half and hung upside down from the branch of a tree is welcomed and much enjoyed by the tits.
Stale bread, biscuits and cake are often available in the kitchen and can make great bird food, though modern processed bread is not suitable for wild birds and should be avoided where possible. Grated wholemeal bread should be moistened slightly, as this makes it easier for the birds to swallow. Moist bread is also less likely to blow away or be taken off in pieces by the larger, more aggressive birds.
Maize flakes, oat flakes and even puppy meal are other valuable food sources. In very cold weather, cheese scattered on the ground beneath bushes should attract wrens and help them through difficult conditions, and left-over mashed potato is a great favourite with Blackcaps.
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