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What do the birds in my garden eat?

Commercial wild bird food is largely made of nuts, seeds and fat balls, but many of the birds in your garden can tolerate a surprisingly varied diet.

Seeds, nuts and fat

High in protein and easy to digest, small seeds like millet and flaked maize are a real favourite with sparrows, blackbirds, finches and collared doves. Sunflower seeds and crushed peanuts are particularly attractive to greenfinches and tits, and nyjer seeds make a delicious treat for nuthatches and woodpeckers.

Birds need to store energy in colder weather, and fat in their diet allows them to do this. Fat balls are an excellent choice, but any fats, like suet and lard, are great too, as they form a solid and can therefore be easily picked up by visiting birds. Cooking fat, however, is bad for birds, so stick to fresh, solid fat for your feathered visitors.

Worms and petfood

Mealworms make a perfect bird food in winter, when earthworms are less plentiful. Meat-based cat food and dog food are good too, but if you do put some out in the garden, make sure it’s fresh and that you clear away any residue after a couple of hours, otherwise you might have all your neighbours’ pets congregating for a free buffet!

Cereals, rice and coconut

Cooked brown rice is another simple pantry staple birds will love. A handful of dry breakfast cereal and porridge oats make a great snack too, and grated mild cheese goes down a storm. Avoid milk, however – birds cannot digest milk and it can cause them serious harm.

Why not provide your local bird population with a regular supply of food, so you can enjoy watching these lovely creatures in action?

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