This is a great way to get near our feathered friends. If you want to attract a large number of birds, you will need to feed the birds high quality food. Attention to nutrition is essential. The food needs to be high in calories to give energy for flight and high in protein for feather and egg production. People would feed birds in winter only but now it is recommended they are fed all-year round.
Q1. Where do I locate the bird table or bird feeding station?
Ideally, 5 to 10 metres from the kitchen window, or patio and near to tree or bush cover. This is so the birds are near their normal habitat and feel at home and can return to cover quickly if predators such as sparrow-hawks are flying through the garden.
Q2. What type of food is best?
Firstly we recommend that bread or dried out roti be not given to birds. It has little nutritional value, can choke young birds and obstruct their stomachs leading to death. In order to attract a range of birds, a range of food is required. Below is a list of foods that you may want to try:
High in protein and calories and will attract all types of tits and woodpeckers. Peanuts for human consumption should never be used as these are salty /roasted and can be harmful.
Only buy peanuts that are suitable for birds and ensure they have been tested for ‘aflotoxin’, which is a poison made by certain fungi that infects peanuts.
Peanuts need to be placed in a wire feeder where the square holes are no more than 6mm apart. This is so the birds have to break into the nuts and prevents them taking away whole nuts that can choke bird chicks.
Packed with protein and oils, it is best to buy ready-husked sunflower seeds (sunflower hearts). They are expensive but are a superb source of instantly accessible energy and very popular with species such as blue tits, great tits, goldfinches and green finches. The sunflower hearts should be placed in a cylindrical birdfeeder with feeding holes and perches.
Will attract goldfinches and siskins. These are small silky black seeds that will need to be placed in a special nyger seed feeder that has narrow holes / slits in it to stop the seeds falling out.
This will attract robins and wrens and other common species.
A good quality seed mix includes combinations of whole wheat, kibbled maize, sunflower seeds, millet, red dari, linseed and rapeseed. Seed mixes should be placed in a cylindrical bird feeder, identical for sunflower hearts.
Cheaper mixes will be bulked out with lentils and split peas, which the birds will discard and will create a mess on the floor, so avoid these.
Water needs to be provided as well. This can be a water container attached to the bird feeding station or a bird bath.
Cleanliness & Bird Safety
Birds can catch diseases from bird feeders, including Salmonella and Trichomoniasis. It is therefore critical that bird feeders and the surrounding area is kept very clean. Here are some tips to ensure you keep the birds healthy:
1. Regular bird table and bird feeder cleaning, at least every 1 to 2 weeks. This means donning rubber gloves and washing the bird table and feeders with water and detergent (feeder disinfectant can be purchased), air-drying and then filling with fresh seed. Wash the feeders outside and not in the kitchen.
2. Change the water everyday in the water container as it can get contaminated with seeds and droppings. If the container is dirty-it should be thoroughly washed and disinfected.
3. Keep the areas below the bird feeder clean by clearing up husks of black sunflower seeds. If this isn’t possible then use non-husk seeds such as sunflower hearts.
4. Never throw food on the floor-use a ground-feeding tray.
5. Rotate the bird feeders around the garden to prevent the ground below the feeder becoming infected.
6. Any uneaten food on a bird table or ground feeder should be cleared away in the evening to prevent rat or mice spreading disease.