Wild Bird Seed - birds and their foods
Birds such as robins, chaffinches, dunnocks and blackbirds are ground feeders. Robins and blackbirds love fat scraps, insects and raisins – some fat products are available with dried insects in them. Finches prefer seed. Ground feeding birds can be fed from a low bird table placed on the ground, or they can be fed from a normal raised bird table as seen in many gardens. The low bird table is easier to clean under a tap and is often metal, whereas cleaning a large bird table is more difficult. The low table can be hazardous, being within reach of cats. ARK have a wide range of feeders for different types of birds as well as food for birds and other wildlife, and you can get all your bird supplies from them at really good prices.
Ground feeding should be avoided where there is the hazard of ground predators like cats or rats; a taller bird table giving more chance to escape can be made less climbable for cats by sliding a length of plastic drainpipe over the wooden or metal stem. This also prevents squirrels climbing up and taking the food.
Perching birds like the tit family, house sparrows, goldfinches and greenfinches can be fed from tube seed feeders, either hung from a nearby tree, or raised above ground on a metal stand. A seed feeder is normally made from a clear plastic tube, which is filled with seed and has openings and perches for the birds to get at the seed. Peanuts can be reached from a different type of tube feeder made from metal mesh rather than plastic. The tit family and house sparrows can use this type of feeder easily. Seed feeders need regular cleaning to prevent old seed building up and getting mouldy which could be unhealthy for the birds and spread disease.
Too few insects in summer means young house sparrows in towns and cities are starving in their nests especially when parent birds are trying to raise important second and third broods. Many of the things we can do to help just mean being lazy, doing nothing and allowing the garden to be a little bit scruffy, and also planting native plants which will encourage insects.
From our own experience, the following three types of seed mix are recommended
Ark Premium Wild Bird Food Carefully selected fresh seeds. This is a fantastic 10 seed mix that will attract a huge range of birds to the garden. No husks, no mess, no clearing up. Suitable for use in tube feeders, bird tables & ground feeding
Ark No Mess Feeder Mix Freshly hulled sunflower hearts and the pick of fine seeds to attract more garden birds. It is preferred by a variety of garden birds. This is our best seller. Suitable for use in tube feeders, bird tables & ground feeding
Ark Robin Friendly Premium - More sunflower hearts and suet than you usually find in similar mixes. Its a high energy bird food with added bite sized suet pellets to provide extra energy. The choice of red pellets is shown to be particularly attractive to robins and other songbirds such as blackbirds and thrushes. Its a mixture of sunflower hearts and peanut granules with flaked oats, maize, raisins and suet pellets. Perfect for use on bird tables and ground feeding where songbirds prefer to feed. The sunflower kernels offer high oil (energy) and the peanut granules good quality proteins, blended with the other ingredients to form a highly palatable and health promoting bird food mix.
All are available from ARK Wildlife
A wide variety of seed mixes are available. Birds such as finches rub the seeds between their beaks to remove the outer hull. If your garden gets a lot of finches looking for food, use seeds with the hull already removed which will reduce the detritus on the ground. Cheaper mixes have more millet than anything else, this is liked by pigeons, and probably not the birds you want to attract. Bread placed on the ground also attracts pigions so is best kept to a minimum. This may seem discriminatory against these birds, but anyone who has had pigions set up home near them will know why most prefer not to attract them; their constant repeated call can become intensely irritating, and being large birds they can consume huge quantities of food.
Tube feeders shouldn't be placed in the open as predators like sparrowhawks are a danger for small birds using them, but sited close to trees, shrubbery or undergrowth so that feeding birds can escape under cover. Their favourite place is under an arch or close to a hedge.
Fledglings will usually get food and water from the food such as insects which the parents provide, but adult birds need a ready supply of water. Many birds relish mealworms in the breeding season, the adult birds take a beakfull of worms for their chicks. Live mealworms can be fed either from straight-sided ceramic bowls (to stop the worms escaping) or from a cage-type mealworm feeder. If live mealworms are not to your liking, dead, dried ones can also be purchased in animal food stores and these too are very popular.
The RSPB recommends five kitchen scraps which you can feed to wild birds: Uncooked porridge Oats, Cake crumbs, Potatoes – baked, roast or even mashed as well as chips, grated or crumbled Cheese will be very popular with robins and wrens, and windfall, soft or over-ripe Fruits such as apples and pears are popular with blackbirds and other species. Stale cake and biscuits provide a rich source of fat, and cooked rice, pasta and pastry are packed with starch, but these are all dry foods, so remember to always have a supply of clean water available all year round, using a small bowl, large seashell, coconut shell or similar. Never use anything too deep as young, inexperienced birds could drown.
Wild birds will be attracted to your garden if you plant food bearing plants, trees, and bushes, which not only provide food, but also provide wild birds with security. The Black Cherry is a very popular choice of fruit eating birds, but all fruit trees are popular, so if you have one you provide a valuable service to birds by leaving the fruit on the tree. Of course, if the fruit is good quality you will want to have some for yourself, but don't forget the birds, leave them some too.