Spring is upon us and the wild birds seem to be as hungry as ever! If you have been supporting the birds through the cold winter, well done! If not, now is a great time to get to know your local wildlife. Young children enjoy identifying and caring for wild birds and they can't be blamed, it is a very rewarding thing to do! So if you are looking to attract some local wildlife to your garden, here's what to feed and how!
The RSPBC have warned not to give bread as it is low in nutrition yet fills the birds up. Instead you should aim to put a variety of seed, each attracts different species of bird. Firstly a good all round 'wild bird seed' will attract a variety of birds, from black birds to wood pigeons. The mixture will contain rice, buckwheat, millet, corn, oats and sunflower, and is ideally fed in the standard seed feeders although also placing on a bird table gives the birds a chance to 'pick and mix'. You can offer black sunflower seed as a good all round too. Goldfinches and siskins as well as some sparrows will love 'Niger seed', which is a fine black seed. These should be fed in a Niger seed feeder, designed especially for fine seeds. Peanuts are perfect for greenfinch, siskin, sparrow, tits and even woodpeckers! Peanuts crushed or grated will attract robins and wrens. Make sure to use a peanut feeder and buy aflatoxin free peanuts and never used roasted or salted!
You can feed mealworms all through the year and will be eagerly awaited by robins, siskins and wagtails. Other birds will also eat these; you can give live or dried, depending on personal preference. They are best given on bird tables although feeding pots and hanging tubs can be used. Other insects to give can include wax worms, ant pupae and other grubs, which are usually available from most live food stockists. They can attract tree creepers, wrens and blackbirds.
Bird cakes and bars are great, particularly in colder weather. Fat balls are inexpensive and easy to hang. The nylon should ideally be removed from the fat ball before hanging. You can also get them in coconut shells, often mixed with insect and other items such as fruit pieces. They will attract a wide variety of birds from starlings to sparrows and tits. The suet bars are also great, as they tend to offer more variety, in terms of what they are mixed with. Berries, insect, fruit and seed are just some of the varieties. These should be fed with a suet 'cage.'
Small amounts of dog or cat food can be put on bird tables as a good substitute for earthworms. Soaked dog biscuit is also good in cooler weather, it shouldn't be offered dry as it can choke birds. You also need to be careful of attracting gulls and even cats! Coconut can be offered too, but only if it is fresh and has no 'milk' left on it. It is best kept in the shell and don't feed desiccated coconut as it may swell in the birds belly and cause serious problems. Rice, cooked, and raw oats will be eaten by larger birds such as pheasant, pigeon and doves.
Milk as birds can't handle it, although mild cheese is okay in small quantities, the lactose in fresh milk can make them very ill. Bread shouldn't be fed as it is not enough nutritionally but fills up the birds. For the same reason margarine, cooking fats, oils and other 'low fat' spreads should not be offered to birds. Furthermore the oils can get onto their feathers and ruin the waterproofing, making them waterlogged. Mouldy food or stale food shouldn't be offered and should be cleaned from the feeders as they could cause harm to the birds and attract unwanted critters!