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Top Ten Foods For Garden Birds

Blue tits on bird feeder Shaun Barr Photography

If you can offer a variety of foods you will increase your chances of attracting different species. Please ensure feeders are cleaned with hot water and mild disinfectant fortnightly or so, to avoid the risk of birds being exposed to disease.

1. Bird seed mixture

A good quality bird mixture is a great place to start, ideally made up of sunflower seeds, flaked maize, and peanut granules. Smaller seeds such as millet will be enjoyed by sparrows, dunnocks, finch species, and even reed buntings. Avoid those mixtures bulked out with split peas, beans, lentils or rice.

2. Sunflower seeds

Protein and oil-rich sunflower seeds are perfect for tit species, bullfinches, goldfinches, and greenfinches. All black seeds have a higher oil content than the striped ones so are even more beneficial. Sunflower hearts are the 'no-mess' solution and are now readily available.

3. Peanuts

Peanuts are packed with protein and will attract greenfinches and tit species. (Make sure you use a wire-mesh feeding to avoid young birds choking on whole peanuts.) Crushed or grated peanuts can be used to attract robins, dunnocks, and occasionally wrens.

4. Niger (or nyger) seeds

An excellent choice to attract goldfinches, siskins, nuthatches, redpolls and even greater-spotted woodpeckers. The seeds have a high oil content so are rich in fat.

5. Fat balls and blocks

Containing both seeds and fat these are an excellent food source for birds, especially during the winter months. If bought in the soft mesh holders, please take them out before feeding as these types of netted feeders can cause injury to birds that become entangled in them. 

6. Mealworms 

Full of both protein and fat, mealworms are a nutritious food enjoyed by many birds, including robins and thrushes. In the spring and summer it's best to use soaked or live mealworms which make them far more suitable for chicks. 

7. Fruit

Both dried fruit such as currants, raisins and sultanas, as well as fresh chopped fruit such as apple make for tasty, nutritious foods, especially for ground-feeding birds such as robins, thrushes and blackbirds. 

8. Meat fat

Fats from cuts of meat, small amounts of bacon rind (provided it isn't too salty).

9. Cheese

Mild cheese, either grated or cut into small pieces is loved by many ground (or table) eating birds such as blackbirds, robins, dunnocks, and song thrushes.  Usually staying away from the bird table, wrens will also take grated cheese from under shrubs and hedges. 

10. Potatoes

Cold, opened baked potatoes, roast and even mashed potatoes can all be enjoyed by birds, especially with a little added fat.

A note on bread

Putting out a small quantity of soaked, not dry bread is perfectly safe for birds. However as it's low in nutrition it really needs to be a very small part of a bird's varied diet to avoid vitamin deficiencies or even starvation.

Always remember to leave out a shallow bowl of clean fresh water for the birds.

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