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Windymillers House

Feeding Guide

Bird Seed

Bird seed mixtures are widely available for wild birds. Different mixes have been formulated for feeders and for table/ground feeding. The better mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds, and peanut granules.

Mixes containing chunks or whole nuts are suitable for winter feeding only. Small seeds, such as millet, attract mostly House Sparrows, Dunnocks, Finches, Reed Buntings and Collared Doves, while flaked maize is taken readily by Blackbirds. Tits and Greenfinches favour peanuts and sunflower seeds. Pinhead oatmeal is excellent for many birds. Wheat and barley grains are often included in seed mixtures but they are really only suitable for Pigeons, Doves and Pheasants, which feed on the ground and rapidly increase in numbers, frequently deterring the smaller species and upsetting neighbours.

Avoid seed mixtures that have split peas, beans, dried rice or lentils as again only large species can eat them dry. These are added to some cheaper seed mixes to bulk them up. Any mixture containing green or pink lumps should also be avoided as that is dog biscuit, which can only be eaten when soaked.

Black sunflower seeds are excellent year-round food, and in many areas are even more popular than peanuts. The oil content is higher in black than striped ones, and so they are much better. Sunflower hearts (the husked kernels) are a popular no-mess food.

Nyjer seeds are small and black with a high oil content. They need a special type of seed feeder, and are particular favourites with Goldfinches and Siskins.

Peanuts are rich in fat and are popular with Tits, Greenfinches, House Sparrows, Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Siskins. Crushed or grated nuts attract Robins, Dunnocks and even Wrens. Nuthatches and Coal Tits may hoard peanuts. Salted or dry roasted peanuts should not be used. Peanuts can be high in a natural toxin, which can kill birds, so buy from a reputable dealer who will guarantee freedom from Aflatoxin.

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Bird Cake and Food Bars

Fat balls and other fat-based food bars are widely available, and are excellent winter food. If they are sold in nylon mesh bags, always remove the bag before putting the fat ball out - the soft mesh can trap and injure birds.

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Live Foods and Other Insect Foods

Mealworms are relished by Robins and Blue Tits, and may attract other insect-eating birds such as Pied Wagtails. Supplies can be obtained from advertised dealers in pet and wild bird food. You can also culture your own mealworms. Waxworms are excellent but expensive. Proprietary foods for insect-eating birds, such as ant pupae and insectivorous and softbill food are available from bird food suppliers and pet shops. Insect food appropriately offered can attract Treecreepers and Wrens.

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Household Items Suitable for Birds

Fat, including suet, is particularly welcomed by Tits, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Thrushes and Wrens. However, do not put out polyunsaturated fats, since they do not give the birds the high levels of energy they require in winter.

Mild grated cheese is a favourite with Robins, Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes. It will also help Wrens if placed under hedgerows and other areas in your garden where you have noticed them feeding.

Potatoes - baked (cold and opened up), roasted and even mashed with added real fats - are all suitable. Wildfowl will also enjoy them. Chips are rarely eaten.

Dried fruits, such as raisins, sultanas and currents are particularly enjoyed by Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Robins. Soak them during Spring and Summer.

Apples, pears and other fruit, including bruised and part rotten ones, cut up, are very popular with all Thrushes, Tits and Starlings.

Pastry, cooked or uncooked is excellent especially if it has been made with real fats.

Cooked rice, brown or white, without added salt.

Dry porridge oats or coarse oatmeal.

Crumbled bread is suitable in small quantities, but moisten if very dry. Brown is better than white. Although bread is not harmful, it should not be offered in large quantities since its nutritional value is relatively low.

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Source: Feeding garden birds wildlife information leaflet (2003).