Feeding the wild birds in the garden is a popular activity. Over half of adults in the UK feed birds in their garden. Unfortunately, supplementary feeding can’t provide all the natural proteins and vitamins that adult and young birds need though. So it’s important to create and manage your garden to provide a source of natural foods as well, through well-managed lawns, shrub and flowerbeds.

It is important to feed your garden birds responsibly and safely. By following a few simple guidelines, you can play a valuable role in helping your local birds overcome periods of natural food shortage, survive periods of severe winter weather and come into good breeding condition in the spring.

When feeding the wild birds in the winter it is essential to include fat rich foods such as sunflower seeds, peanuts and suet in the diet as this will help to provide energy during cold weather and keep their fat reserves high. Try to put fresh food and water out on a regular basis and in severe weather conditions you could even feed twice daily. Try to establish a feeding routine as this will encourage the birds to visit regularly so no food goes to waste.

Here are three of our most common garden visitors and a guide to their preferred winter diets:


Enjoys a varied diet, and will normally look for remnants of food, fat, seeds, fruit and berries.


Acrobatic and graceful, the bluetit enjoys a winter diet of seeds and nuts. Ring studies have shown that up to a thousand different bluetits may visit a back garden in one winter alone!


National bird of the U.K. The robin enjoys a varied diet but particularly enjoys worms or insects during the winter.

Table and feeder hygiene

Most moulds are completely harmless to birds. However, some can cause respiratory infections so it is advisable to avoid mouldy food entirely. The best way to avoid food becoming mouldy or stale is to start with a small amount of a variety of seeds and establish a routine for filling up the feeders. Remove any mouldy foods promptly to reduce the risk of salmonella bacteria. Try to avoid large amounts of seeds on the ground as these will attract rats and mice.

Scraps and left overs

These can be given as long as you are aware of a few things. Dog & cat food, meaty foods can be a good substitute for earthworms during the warm dry part of the summer. However, dry dog & cat food can be a choking hazard if not soaked. It can also attract larger birds such as magpies and gulls but also cats so is best avoided. Rice and cereals, rice can be offered if cooked and unsalted for most species. However pigeons, doves and pheasants can eat it uncooked. Oats should never be cooked since this makes them glutinous and could harden around a bird’s beak.

For a more detailed list of feeding do’s and don’ts when feeding the wild birds, please visit the RSPB’s website: www.rspb.org.uk

Feeding The Wild Birds This Winter
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