During winter natural food sources for garden birds are scarce. With the arrival of frost and snow it’s important that we put out high energy substitutes to help birds to maintain their fat reserves and survive through the coldest months of the year.
Whilst bread is a welcome food source for birds it contains few nutrients. Equally many shop bought, ready mixed bird foods contain ingredients which have little nutritional benefit for garden birds. When buying ready-made bird food try to avoid mixes which contain split peas, beans, dried rice, lentils and coloured pet biscuits. These will only be eaten by larger birds and are often added to cheap garden bird mixes to bulk them out. Instead, when buying or making your own winter garden bird food, try to ensure that it includes some of the following high energy ingredients.
High energy foods for garden birds
A mix of any of these foods will create a high energy feed that will attract a range of garden birds including Tits, Robins, Siskins and Finches.
- Black sunflower seeds. These contain a higher oil content than striped sunflower seeds
- Natural, chopped peanuts
- Nyger seeds
- Hard animal fats such as lard and suet.
- Unsalted, chopped bacon rind
- Mild, grated cheese
- Fresh coconut in its shell
- Chopped, fresh fruit such as apples and pears
- Dried fruit such as raisins, sultanas and currants. Please note that cats and dogs can react badly to eating dried fruit so please ensure that they are always placed out of the reach of your pets
Foods never to put out for garden birds
- Salted or roasted peanuts
- Turkey fat or fat from other cooked meats. As this fat has blended with the meat’s juices during cooking it has a soft consistency even when set. This can smear onto and stick to a bird’s feathers causing damage.
- Desiccated coconut. This can swell up inside the bird’s stomach.
- Dry cat or dog biscuits. Small birds can choke on the hard lumps.
- Cooked porridge oats. These are glutinous and can dry hard around a bird’s beak
- Mouldy or stale foods.
Don’t forget water
It’s important during the cold weather to also ensure that there is a constant source of fresh water for garden birds. Even in winter birds get thirsty and need to clean their feathers.
The arrival of December this week, heralded the arrival of winter here at Le Jardin Perdu. With a thick blanket of snow now covering the countryside, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Robins have been flocking to my bird feeders to enjoy the high energy treats I’ve put out. It suddenly feels like Christmas is on its way!