Would you like to attract wild birds to your garden this spring? Feeding garden birds gives them a vital leg up after the harsh winter. If you want to help the birds, it’s important to know exactly what’s best for them to eat. Let’s take a look at how to safely feed garden birds in spring.
Should I feed birds in spring?
Yes, feeding birds in spring provides them with the vital nutrients needed to recover from winter, as well as refuelling migrant species. Spring is the time most migrants arrive after all.
Birds also start to prepare for the breeding season during this time. By giving them extra food, you’re reducing foraging time. This gives them more time to gather supplies for nest building. By the time the babies arrive, birds will need additional food to feed their chicks.
By feeding birds in spring, you’re essentially making their lives easier, helping them survive and successfully raise their chicks while there aren’t many fruiting plants or seeds available yet.
When should I stop feeding the garden birds?
You don’t have to stop feeding the garden birds. They can be fed all year round. Feeding them is especially helpful in winter when food is scarce. You can skip feeding in summer if you like. During these months food is plentiful and the garden birds shouldn’t struggle to find any.
Feeding in autumn helps to fatten up any migrants before they take on their long journey. It also helps the resident birds to prepare for winter.
Feeding in spring helps the arriving migrants to replenish their strength. It also helps the resident birds to recover from winter and prepare for breeding.
As you can see, there’s no real point where you have to stop feeding. If you don’t want birds becoming too dependent on food, you can stop feeding as soon as summer starts.
How do I feed birds in my garden?
To feed birds in your garden, you’ll need a bird feeder or something similar. Depending on the kind of birds you’re aiming to feed, you’ll also need to place the feeder in different spots.
Some bird feeders are designed specifically for seed-eaters, while others are geared more towards fruit, nectar or insect-eating birds. You will need to decide which of these birds to focus on, or buy a combination of feeders to cater for them all.
If you can, also provide them with water. You can do this by installing a birdbath somewhere near the feeders.
What is the best food for garden birds?
Different kinds of birds need different food to stay healthy. Here’s a quick breakdown of what to feed garden birds:
- Good quality garden bird seed mixes
- Unsalted peanuts
- Unsalted sunflower seeds
Insect eaters and chicks:
- Mealworms (live or dried)
- Waxworms (live or dried)
- Grated cheese
- Scrambled eggs with crushed eggshells mixed in
- Store-bought nectar mix
- Homemade nectar mix
Make sure you have the correct feeders to accommodate the type of food you want to feed. You’ll also need to make sure that the feeding area is kept clean. Birds can be quite sensitive to bacterial infections and other diseases and you don’t want to accidentally hurt them with a dirty feeding setup. Use an antiseptic solution and vinegar to clean eating surfaces every time you feed. You may also need some elbow grease to remove tough spots of bird poo.
For the best results, feed your birds at the same time every day. This allows them to get used to the routine and you’ll see them flocking to the feeders as soon as you’re done. The best time of day to put out food is usually in the morning.
Foods to avoid feeding to wild birds
There are a lot of myths surrounding what birds can and can’t eat. If you’re not sure, make sure to check this list for foods to avoid.
- Old food
Stale food that’s gone off is often fed to wildlife. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t good for them at all. Bird food in particular needs to be fresh. Stale food can cause problems like sour crop and other bacterial or fungal infections.
Bread is very commonly fed to birds. Although birds can digest most types of bread, its nutritional value is quite low so it acts as an ’empty filler’ and can lead to vitamin deficiencies and even starvation.
Salt is very bad for birds. They can’t digest it which means in large quantities it can be toxic. If you thought of feeding them some leftover salted peanuts, throw the peanuts in the bin.
- Dry cat or dog food
Dry kibble and biscuits aren’t recommended as birds can choke on the hard pieces. Tinned wet food on the other hand can be fed in small quantities. Keep in mind that it can attract unwanted critters like rats, ants and flies.
- Cooked food
It’s best to avoid feeding cooked oats or other types of cooked porridge to birds. It can cake around the beak and become hard over time. As a result, the birds might struggle to eat or even get skin infections around the face. Uncooked oats on the other hand are fine.
Can I feed birds human food?
Yes. Some foods like uncooked oats, rice, uncooked mince, and fruits are good options for birds. Make sure to read up on the specific bird you want to feed before adding human food to the mix.
Does it matter where I place the feeder?
Yes, different kinds of birds find food in different areas of the garden. Generally, it is best to put feeders for seed eaters near the ground. Fruits are best placed on feeders that you hang from a tree and insect feeders are best placed near the trunk of a tree. Nectar feeders can be hung from a branch near a flowering plant.
What time of day do birds visit feeders?
Birds usually visit feeders first thing in the morning when they are the most active. Later in the day when it gets hotter they will usually retreat and spend their time somewhere in the shade. You might also see some birds visiting the feeders in the afternoon.
Feeding birds in the spring provides them with the essential nutrients they require to recuperate from the winter or a long migration. Overall, you are effectively making their lives easier. As a result, they will have a better chance of rearing chicks and surviving when there aren’t enough fruiting plants available.