How to feed your garden birdsCool for Kids

Tips to feed garden birds

Feeding the garden birds in winter is a great way to introduce children to nature

With the approaching winter (at least if you’re reading this in the Northern Hemisphere), it’s time to consider helping your local wild birds through the cold months ahead, when finding natural food can be difficult.

Feeding the garden birds and then identifying and counting them is extremely enjoyable, and a great way to introduce children to the wonders of nature.

Here are a few tips that might help you to get started.

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Peanuts are always a winner and a good first buy

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I prefer to semi-grind them up a little. They are easier for the birds to take

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I put the ground nuts in a nut hanger. I prefer the ones shown, with two or four holes and perches for the birds. Nuts in wire hangers are more difficult for the birds to take

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Sunflower seeds are also very popular.

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I use sunflower seeds in two ways. A seed hanger like this is best for greenfinches, which just happily sit on the little pole and eat until they are full

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I also put them in a wire mesh hanger. The tits love these.

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Bird seed comes in various mixes. You pay for what you get. The more expensive mixes have better quality seeds and greater variety.

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In our garden there is a brick BBQ that we never use. This is the ideal covered location for a little seed holder like this on, as it keeps the seeds dry

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A lot of birds though are perfectly happy just to peck the seeds off the ground

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Fat or suet cylinders are also very popular and are a high-energy food. This one has got seeds mixed in with the fat.

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Others have small mealworms added to the fat mix.

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You simply fix a length of string to the hook in the top and suspend it from your bird table, feeding pole, garden shed or the low branch of a tree

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Dried mealworms are readily available these days, in pots of 500 grams for example.

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I put them into wire mesh hangers so that the tits can come and help themselves

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I also add some to a little plastic tray which I nail to the bird table so it doesn’t blow away. Robins in particular seem rather partial to mealworms

So those are the main foodstuffs I put out for the birds. During a really cold spell, for example when the ground is frosted over or thick with snow, I will also distribute bread, cheese, oats, and chopped up apples. When it’s icy I also put out a tray of water.

I am always amazed at how quickly the birds find the food. I start feeding the birds again in mid-October after the summer break. Just since then (4 weeks ago) I have already spotted 22 different species of bird in the garden, and 51 birds altogether. One winter the total number of birds in the garden was 155 (from 26 species).

I hope that your garden birds give you as much pleasure as mine give me. I am sure the birds appreciate your efforts.

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65 replies »

  1. We recently bought a new bird feeder (throwing away the old wire one) & the birds have completely ignored it since! They still eat the fat mix that’s hung up too though. Love encouraging birds into our garden. I could watch them for hours.

  2. We live in Sydney and has some lovely birds come to visit. Hubby loves putting out the sunflower seeds, but I’ve never heard of putting peanuts out – will have to give that one a go!

  3. Wonderful ideas and great pictures to show us what you are talking about. I have an old friend who lives in Asheville, North Carolina in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is an avid bird feeder. Squirrels are a constant issue. This past year she has had 3 bird feeders trashed because bears have also come down out of the mountains and when they want to get food from the feeders, they smash it with a paw. Hope you don’t have that level of problem. 🙂

  4. OHH, I so want to put up a bird feeder in my yard. It’s sounds odd to say, but even as a child, I never had one.

  5. We would feed the birds all year round if we didn’t have to worry about attracting bears and raccoons. Now that winter has arrived, our suet feeder is up and the chickadees and woodpeckers are munching away.

    Have to say, I startled when I scrolled down and saw the dried worms. And I didn’t think I was squeamish. 😉

  6. We also put out bird seed in the winter and we get some very colorful birds! Thanks for sharing your ideas on the different types of food. We may start offering a variety to our feathered friends! 🙂

  7. You are so good to your birdies!

    I couldn’t do that in the UK because our garden was small, and had a wall that was a cat/fox highway. If I fed birds it would end up being a buffet for cats and foxes!! We did make some of those fat/nut/cakes and leave them in our local park though.

  8. I would love to be a bird around your place. A varied diet, plenty of comfortable perches for snacking, and a safe environment to stop and smell the nuts. Sounds like an avian paradise.

  9. What a wonderful bird host you are, Denzil. Thanks for the descriptions of the menus and how to present them. A favorite pre-school activity is to roll a pine cone or a cardboard tube in peanut butter, then in a seed mixture, and hang it for the birds. We hang a couple of hummingbird feeders amidst the milkweed we grow for the monarchs. These are two of the feeding stations not invaded by opossum, raccoon, squirrels, and rats in the neighborhood.

    • Hi Sharon, that sounds a good idea. Maybe I’ll try that. It’s amazing that in many regions of the world, other, less desirable creatures are around to take advantage of the bird food. Your list is by far the biggest yet. Do you not have bears too?

      • No, but we do have skunks whose smell makes me very sick – have had a hard time getting them to leave. Beautiful animals though. Also coyotes, our scariest critters because they have no fear of people and brazenly walk down our streets. They’re usually interested in hunting cats and small dogs. We live across the street from an elementary school and I worry about the safety of the kids, especially those who walk home without an adult.

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  11. Hi Denzel,

    Great post as normal and made me get the bird feeder out and fill it with bird seed (a nice leftover from my wife’s crèche supplies on our lower floor.)

    Going to look at expanding our variety though for the different birds that visit.

    Have noticed how some do like eating from the ground (Blackbirds) and their various preferences…

    Our house and garden obviously is in Uccle Centre so I am curious how many species we get in the ‘city’.

    Cheers – Kevin

  12. wow! this is cool way to feed birds. Unfortunately, in India we don’t have such options. people just spread variety of grains in open spaces marked for bird feeding!

  13. Hi Denzel, I’m a bit late to the party but we were inspired by your post to pick up a few new food holders and different types of feed. Those mealworms are a handful to deal with even in their mummified state!

    We’re in Brussels and I’ll be interested to see if we attract more species here with our larger buffet.

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