Bird feeding has been a habit of humankind for many years, but best practices have changed over time. With so much information now available on what we should or shouldn’t do, we have created a list of the most common do’s and don’ts of feeding birds that can help you get your bird feeding off to the best start, and ensure you're feeding your regular garden visitors the best bird food!
The do's of feeding birds
Practice good hygiene
Just like us, birds appreciate good hygiene. If you consider that your garden is a 'hotel' for birds, with a restaurant (bird feeder), room (bird home) or even a spa (bird bath), then it's essential to keep these key areas clean to keep them coming back. Whilst good hygiene is necessary to keep birds visiting your 'hotel', and it also keeps them safe as unclean areas can encourage disease. You should aim to clean these areas once a week, and regularly replace any uneaten or old food.
Keep feeders stocked
There’s nothing worse than nipping into your cupboard at home to find that your favourite food has been eaten and not replaced, so imagine how your guests might feel! Keeping feeders stocked up is important so that birds recognise you as a reliable extra food source for them. Aim to replace your bird food once a week and discard any old food while wearing gloves. By staying stocked up, you can also ensure that birds can feed at every port in your bird feeder, and that there's room for more than one hungry beak!
Birds need certain foods at different times of the year, so you should keep this in mind to continually impress your visitors. Seeds like niger and sunflower are full of energy-boosting oils needed for nesting season, whilst fatty peanuts are ideal for gaining weight to stay warm in winter. Straights are great for attracting certain types of birds, but do remember that not all birds can easily eat these, so it is best to provide a blend of husked and huskless seeds to attract birds big and small!
You could provide an entire bird buffet and hope for visitors right away, but wild birds will take a while to warm to your offerings. This is because, at every moment, they are making decisions about how safe it is to eat from your feeder, if your feeder has the food they need and if it is easy to access. But if you have all these boxes ticked, you can be sure that you will soon attract some visitors. Make sure that you have the right feeder for the food you are providing, and ensure you are positioning it in the right place.
The don'ts of feeding birds
Opt for cheaper mixes
As a hobby, we understand that sometimes you may be on a budget with your bird feeding and that getting a good deal can make doing this regularly that much easier. When looking at the do's and don’ts of feeding birds, this one is definitely on the don't side of the list! Many cheaper bird mixes are full of filler products such as wheat to bulk out mixtures that offer no benefits to birds. A filler-free mixture ensures your birds are getting a balanced blend of their favourites, which means no food will be left behind! Of course, you can always feed birds with a pre-approved list of leftovers from the RSPB.
Only use one kind of bird feeder
Some birds, such as robins, can be pretty territorial - so if your garden is one of their favourite choices for dining, you may notice that you do not get as many other types of birds in your garden as you would like to. A solution to this is to provide more than one feeding area, so you can cater for even the fussiest eaters. Feeding stations and hanging feeders are a great way to offer different feeding points in your garden. Likewise, you should consider a seed feeder, niger feeder or even peanut feeder to ensure you cover all areas to get birds to your garden. If you want to offer your birds a little bit of everything, then a bird feeding station will do just that.
Only feed in winter time
Wild birds are excellent at sourcing their own food sources most of the year when berries and seeds are readily available, but this doesn’t mean that we should start and stop our feeding schedules as the seasons come and go. In winter, natural food sources deplete, and this may seem like the best time to feed them, but you may be surprised to know that birds will appreciate food at any time of year! You may see an increase in visitors in spring when nesting begins so birds can boost their energy levels, and some will start stocking up on their winter supplies as early as August.
Knowing the do's and don't of feeding birds
Now you know the do's and don'ts of feeding birds, why not consider helping them set up home to encourage them to stay for even longer?