Food for the birds is scarce in winter, but you can give them a helping hand by putting up feeders in the garden.
Who doesn’t love the sound of birdsong, except perhaps for the Hadedas?
Seeds, fruit, and nectar are scarce in winter and supplementing nature’s supply from June through to August is a wonderful way to reward birds for the pleasure they give us.
Each species eats a particular kind of food. Some birds feed on seed, others nectar, suet, or fruit, so it is a good idea to have one of each type of feeder.
That’s the advice from Kirchhoffs Wild Wings which supplies hardware stores with a full range of bird food, garden feeders, nesting logs and wild bird seed for growing the grasses that birds love.
Pretty and Practical
Seed bells or blocks on a rope favour smaller birds because it is easier for them to perch on the bell while pecking off the seeds. A seed feeder with a ‘hat’ protects the seed bell from rainwater and allows the gardener to feed less frequently. Suspend it from a branch or beam to attract different birds.
Rustic seed feeders
Feeders that have a flat bottom, with a narrow perch or a narrow roof overhang so that pigeons cannot get at the food. Opt for a mix of grains/seeds that include sunflower seeds as well as smaller grains. Mixes should be fresh and check for mildew or mould because this is harmful to birds.
Good to know: Keep feeders clean by regularly washing them with a weak solution of bleach to remove rotting seed and bird droppings, as this can spread disease.
Banting for birds
Suet is a high fat and protein feed that helps birds to maintain their energy levels and keep them warm during the frosty nights. Hang suet slabs from a tree or put into a suet feeder which allows the birds to feed more easily but only small bits can be pecked off at a time.
Birds like pudding too
Another option is Wild Bird Pudding that is a soft, non-sticky meal relished by birds made from seeds, peanut butter, and vegetable oil. Birds likely to be attracted to the suet or wild bird pudding include White-eyes, thrushes, Boubous, Crested Barbets and Bulbuls.
Good to know: Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while for the birds to start eating regularly. Start with small amounts and keep the rest in the refrigerator.
A sweet treat
A nectar feeder bridges the gap in winter when there is little in flower. It takes the form of a bottle that can be hung from a branch or a beam and is angled to ensure a constant supply of nectar. It is a good idea to have two nectar feeders, but to fill one with water as this is often in short supply as well.
Nectar mix is also available in powder form, just add water. This is preferable to ready-made mixes and will ensure that the nectar in the feeder is always as fresh as possible. Do not add any red dye, including that found in food colouring. The dye is potentially toxic to birds.
This is essential for birds so keep a fresh supply for drinking and bathing, even in winter!
Spike the fruit
Fruit should not be placed on the ground or put loosely on feeding tables. Use a feeder with spikes to push the fruit onto it. Only put out as much fruit as birds will eat in a day or two because fruit spoils easily. Apples and pawpaw are the most popular, and particularly favoured by bulbuls, barbets, starlings, and mousebirds while White-eyes like softer fruit including avocado and banana.