The period from late autumn to early spring is often one of great avian activity in gardens, with birds forming flocks and seeking out sources of food to get them through the cold winter months. During periods of particularly cold weather, the food you provide in your garden might be the difference between life and death for some birds - particularly the smaller species.
With that in mind, we thought we'd offer a reminder of the different options available when it comes to feeding your garden birds.
|You know you're doing a good job of feeding the birds when they trust you this much! Photo by Brian Carruthers|
What food you might want to put out will vary depending on the size and type of your garden, the birds you either expect to get or want to attract, and the severity of the weather. In general, you can't go too far wrong with most of the bird foods out there, but the below info will help steer you in the right direction for how to best attract and feed the birds in your garden!
Some Garden Feeding Tips:
- Keep your feeders within a metre or so of trees and hedges where possible - this will help birds find them in the first place, and they'll feel safer when feeding too because they know shelter is just a short hop away if a hunting Sparrowhawk makes an appearance!
- As well as food, it's good to provide water for your garden birds, particularly on cold mornings when natural sources of water are frozen over!
- Clean your feeders regularly to prevent the spread of illness among your garden birds. A dilute bleach solution (5%) is perfect, and dry everything before putting them out again. It can be a good idea to just half-fill your feeders so that you can take them in for a cleaning on a weekly basis. Give your bird bath a regular clean too! The spread of trichomonosis has devestated Greenfinch numbers in Ireland and Britain, and good feeder hygeine is the best way to prevent it.
- Variety is key! If you want a variety of birds, then put out a variety of food-types in a variety of locations. Try a few different things until you find what works best for your garden!
- Don't put out any food with mould on it as it will make the birds sick, and can prove fatal! It's better to put out small amounts of food every few days, rather than filling your feeders to the brim and for some of the food to go mouldy.
A cat eating a Garden Bird - there are a few steps you can take to prevent this! Photo by Flickr user Bad Kitten
- Beware of cats! You'd be shocked at the amount of birds that are lost to cats, and your local cat is probably taking a lot more birds than you realise. Don't have any bird food on the ground near hedging or flower pots that a cat can be hiding behind, and make sure your feeders are 5-6 feet off the ground as cats can be amazingly agile jumpers when they want to be! The reason you're feeding your garden birds is to help them get through the winter, so don't undo your good work by making it easy for cats to catch them!
- If you have problems with Rooks and Jackdaws, hang your feeders on a length of elastic - the larger birds will be too heavy to land on it without bouncing up and down, and will leave the feeder alone! Also, some of the Squirrel-proof feeders can also be crow-proof!
|Our BirdWatch Ireland shop is full of bird food, feeders and much more. You can shop online, over the phone, or call into us in Kilcoole. http://shop.birdwatchireland.ie/birdwatchireland/|
|Blue Tit on a peanut feeder. Photo by B. Burke|
|Sunflower hearts (left) and a mix of black and striped sunflower seeds (right). Photo by ABF via Wikimedia|
|Sunflower seeds are great for a variety of birds - including Greenfinch and House Sparrow. Photo by Brian Carruthers|
|A Robin taking seed from a tray, rather than a hanging feeder. Photo by B Burke|
|A Goldfinch feeding from a special Nyger Seed Feeder. Photo by D Coombes|
|Long-tailed Tits and a Blue Tits tuck into the last remaining fatball! (Photo by Flickr user Airwolfhound)|
|Robin with a Mealworm. Photo by Philip Heron|
|A male Blackbird availing of an apple left out on a tree.|
BWI Shop website: http://shop.birdwatchireland.ie/