Give birds a welcome boost by feeding them a selection of nuts, seeds, suet, and mealworms – then sit back and enjoy watching them thrive in your garden. Trying to attract specific types of bird? Understand their preferences and you arrange your bird feeding station to cater for all the species you love. Here’s how…
Wooden versus metal feeding stations
Space-saving, multi-feeding stations are a simple way to serve up a veritable banquet of bird treats. There are two main types: the single metal pole with arms from which to dangle bird feeders of your choice; and traditional wooden stations that incorporate a table as well as different feed compartments.
Feeding stations help you to cover all the bases, allowing you to serve a variety of treats all at once and attract the widest spectrum of wild birds. Just decide which of the styles you prefer, which birds you want to observe, and customise your feeding station to suit their specific requirements.
Birds that prefer hanging seed feeders
Tits, woodpeckers, finches and house sparrows love to perch on hanging seed feeders while they eat their fill. From attractive wooden swings to multi-port hanging seed feeders, there are plenty of sizes and shapes from which to choose. If squirrels are a nuisance, go for a metal design they can’t chew through, or even better, a squirrel-proof bird feeder.
Serving up niger seed? Goldfinches love this tiny, oily black seed but as it’s so small you need to invest in a special niger seed feeder which features a tiny slit from which birds retrieve the seeds without allowing them to tumble out.
If you want to attract woodpeckers, nuthatches, sparrows, tits, finches, and siskins – supply energy-packed, nutrient rich peanuts from a dedicated nut feeder. These birds don’t just love to eat this tasty treat – they like to cling to the mesh to peck away at it. Do make sure the mesh size is big enough so that birds can feed without damaging their beaks, but small enough to stop nuts escaping – 6mm is about right.
Some feeders feature a tray at the bottom to collect loose nuts or nut fragments. To keep squirrels at bay, position your feeding station well away from jumping off points and consider installing a squirrel baffle to stop these wiley creatures climbing from above or below.
Birds that love suet feeders
Tits, robins, sparrows and starlings are just some of the species that love to feast on suet – a great way to keep garden birds fueled up to beat winter frosts. Suet feeders feature wide mesh which holds fat balls in place while providing easy access for birds – models which feature a squirrel guard are a must if squirrels are an issue.
Fat turns rancid in warm, wet conditions so it’s very important to check regularly to make sure your feed is in good condition. To protect suet from the elements, use a feeder with a protective lid.
Birds that prefer a flat table
Ideal for lawns and patio, traditional table feeders attract a wide range of species including tits, finches, sparrows, and wrens. Opting for a model which features a roof also gives tired birds a rest from the elements and helps to keep feed dry, which is important to stop it turning rancid.
Do you have a squirrel problem? You’re not alone. Squirrels and pigeons have hearty appetites and will make short work of the food you set out for smaller birds. Wooden feeding stations feature proper feeding systems designed to make food available for songbirds while excluding uninvited guests.
Birds that prefer ground feeders
Tables are loved by many types of bird, but if you really want to keep blackbirds, robins, thrushes and wrens happy, you’ll present their feed at ground level. Look out for ground feeding platforms which incorporate a mesh base to allow rainwater to pass through without damaging or contaminating the feed.
Remember to site your feeder away from shrubs and borders which provide cover for lurking cats. Vermin love it when there’s food within easy reach – only put out sufficient feed to last a day and be careful to clean up dropped seed regularly.
The wild bird population suffers from low levels of salmonella so you really must be very careful to keep your bird feeders clean – ideally you should give them a good scrub with a special sanitiser at least once a month.
Like any food, nuts, seeds and suet balls will go off after a few days if they’re open to the elements. Even if you use a feeder which protects the contents from the worst of the weather, you must keep a close eye on the condition of the feed, disposing of any that looks rancid or mildewed. A good tip is only to put out sufficient food for a few days and store the remainder in an airtight container.
Do make sure that you keep surrounding areas clear of dropped food or you’ll attract more than birds to feed on it. Opting for sunflower hearts is a good way to avoid droppages – already removed from their shells, the birds don’t have to do any work to get at the tasty morsel inside.
Whichever feeder, or feeding station you opt for, always vary the food on offer. Just like humans, birds need a wide variety of calorie sources and nutrients, and making sure you vary the food you put out is ideal.
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