Feeding Wild Birds

Helping wild birds is extremely rewarding and can make a big difference to them. Setting up hanging feeders, bird tables and ground feeding trays will attract a variety of wildlife and watching the activity around them is fascinating.

Many people will put wild bird food out in the winter months, but in fact wild birds benefit from additional supplies all year round. In the coldest months, particularly when there is ice or snow on the ground, it is a good idea to put food and fresh water out more frequently.

There are lots of different types of wild bird food available to buy. You can also put out various kitchen scraps. However, take care as there are some foods that are unsuitable for wild birds or that might present a danger to other animals and wildlife. For example, artificial sweeteners, raisins, sultanas and grapes can be toxic for dogs.

Soft fruits, sultanas, raisins, pears and apples are very popular with many wild bird species and are particularly nice in the autumn. Grains and seeds, such as millet, sunflower seeds, oats and nyjer, are a really good choice, as are cooked rice and pasta, mild cheese and boiled potatoes. If you are providing bacon, remember it must be unsalted and uncooked. Peanuts should be unsalted and only use those which are free of toxins. Place peanuts in mesh feeders to ensure birds are not able to take them whole, as doing so could potentially pose a choking hazard for young chicks. Suet and fat balls are another favourite and during winter are good sources of extra calories. Insect-loving birds will appreciate a supply of waxworms and mealworms.

Don?t forget to provide fresh water. Water bowls should be placed away from closed cover, such as trees and bushes, where predators might lurk. Regularly clean water bowls using a mild detergent to prevent the spread of infection. During the winter months, check water bowls frequently to ensure they have not iced over.


Unfortunately, a lot of birds die due to disease and infection. To prevent transmission of infections, feeders should be cleaned and properly dried before being refilled on a weekly basis. Rotating feeding stations and drinking areas will help to reduce the risk of disease spreading among local garden birds.

A fact sheet has been produced by Garden Wildlife Health (GWH) detailing some of the most common diseases that affect garden birds in Britain, including avian pox, salmonellosis and trichomonosis.

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