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28 October 2014

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You are in: Devon > Nature > Nature Features > Bird feeders: what to feed?

Covered bird feeder in the BBC garden

Covered bird feeder

Bird feeders: what to feed?

Birds are an essential part of any wildlife garden and here at the BBC we want to do all we can to keep our feathered friends happy and content all year round.

Spring is the perfect time to put up bird boxes and feeders in you garden - follow our handy hints.

Since food plays a key role in their survival, providing your local birds with a feeder or two is an excellent way encourage them into your garden, balcony or window box, and at the same time ensures countless hours of viewing pleasure for you and your family.

Here in the BBC Wildlife Garden we have set up several bird feeders and a bird table, each equipped with its own small camera, with the intention of sharing the pleasure of feeding our birds with you and hopefully, prompting you to set up your own bird feeders.

Bird feeder equipped with mini camera

Please Sir, can I have some more?

What to feed and when?


If you have any doubts about what to feed your birds ask at your local pet shop or garden centre, where they will be very happy to advise you.

In the case of bird tables, a wide variety of kitchen scraps can be used, but in general avoid raw meat and vegetables.

The advantage of a bird table is that a wide range of birds can be catered for, while providing a convenient site for locating accessories such as fat balls and coconuts.  

Little and often is the answer when it comes to feeding at bird tables, and as early as possible – the early bird and all that!

In the case of bird feeders these are designed to be self service, but refill as necessary and try to locate these where there is some shelter from the elements as this makes it more comfortable for the birds and prevents the contents from becoming damp and, worse still, mouldy.

Dispose of any mouldy food, especially peanuts, immediately (out of the reach of birds) and thoroughly wash the feeder before refilling.

Before you start feeding the birds here are a few simple things to remember:

  1. Once you have started feeding, please keep it up, especially during the cold, short days of winter when birds need all the food they can get.
  2. In feeders, use only good quality bird food from a reputable supplier.
  3. Remove any soiled or decaying food from your bird table each time you feed.
  4. Keep everything scrupulously clean and wash your bird table and feeders at least once a week.
  5. Also, avoid feeding on the ground as this quickly becomes stale and encourages vermin.

With bird feeders use only those designs that are recommended by the RSPB or BTO, which are available from all good garden centres.

In the case of bird tables something 18-24” square, and at least 5’ above the ground, is ideal and avoid wasting money on rustic, thatched versions and those with built in nest boxes!

A much more important feature is proximity to some cover e.g. a large bush or hedge.  Happy bird watching! 

last updated: 22/02/2008 at 09:48
created: 11/07/2006

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