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Creative Ways to Feed Garden Birds.
You can easily attract many varieties of birds and even squirrel into your garden and also help them get through the cold winter months by providing fresh food and water for them.
Inexpensive bird feeders and treats can be made easily, often with materials you already have at home and would throw away.
Some simple ways to attract and feed garden birds include:
Strings of popcorn and/or dried fruit (thread onto cotton using a sewing needle)
Whole fruit such as apples and pears
Dried sunflower heads
Bough suet balls, cakes and bags of seeds
Small muffins, biscuits and pieces of fruit cake crumbled or left whole
Mild grated cheese
Dry porridge oats
Potato (jacket, boiled, roast and even mashed potatoes are suitable but only saturated fats should be used as margarines and other soft fats do not provide the high energy needed and can cause problems if they get onto a birds feathers)
Any of these ingredients can also be added to the seed and fat ball/feeder recipes below.
Once you start feeding wild birds it is better to continue to do so throughout the year as they learn where they can find food and may become dependant on what is being provided depending on what is available naturally in the area. many people begin feed wild birds in the wintertime and this is a time when they most need this supplementary food as many natural sources will become scarce or even disappear.
Birds need high levels of saturated fats such as those found in lard and suet to keep their energy levels up. This is especially true in the winter when the cold weather causes them to use more energy up keeping warm so do not worry that the recipes and foods seem very high in fat as this is good for the birds. It is important to also provide fresh water for birds as many of their usual sources may freeze during the colder months.
Pine Cone Feeders
Pine cones can be covered in a solid fat such as lard and then rolled in bird seeds and nuts. String can be tied to the top of the pine cone to This can be done in one of two ways.
1) Melt lard and mix in bird seed, nuts and dried fruit. Leave to harden and then press onto pine cones.
2) Using your hands mix room temperature lard with seeds, nuts and dried fruits. The press the mixture onto the pine cones,
Easy Shaped Seed Cakes
Dissolve a sachet of gelatine in water according to the packets instructions. Mix in enough bird seed so that everything begins to stick together. Now press the mixture into cookie cutters or other similar moulds. Use the back of a teaspoon to press it down and create a solid shape.
These can be made into hanging feeders by laying a piece of string on the seed halfway through filling the mould with seed.
Lard Balls and Cakes
Homemade lard cakes can me made easily by melting lard and then adding bird seed, nuts, dried fruits and even dried insects and meal worms which can be bough in pet and garden shops. This mixture can then be poured into a small greased cake tin or similar container until it hardens. String can be added to the feeders by placing a length of string partly into the melted lard after it has been poured into the container.
To make balls, mix room temperature lard with seeds, nuts, dried fruit etc and then form into balls using your hands. The lard mix can be moulded around string to create hanging feeders or the balls can be hung using bought feeders.
How to Attract a Variety of Birds to your Garden
Offering a variety of different foods will help to attract many species of wild bird as each has it's own preferences. There are also some foods that are best avoided for some types of birds or at certain times of year, such as avoiding using fat balls in the summer as they have a risk of becoming rancid and making birds ill.
Small seeds such as millet will attract lots of smaller birds such as sparrows and finches. Seed that drops to the floor will often be eaten by larger birds such as pigeons or doves. This helps to limit waste but the larger birds can scare away the smaller ones if their numbers become to large.
Peanuts are rich in fat and enjoyed by many birds including woodpeckers, sparrows, tits, finches and siskins. Peanuts can be fed whole of crushed but should be bought from a reputable retailer as they can be high in aflatoxin, a natural toxin that can be harmful to birds. Salted and dry roasted peanuts are not suitable for bird feed.
Meal worms and wax worms are a great choice for attracting insect eating birds to your garden such as robins, blue tits and wagtails. These foods can be quite expensive and must be fresh so they do not harm the birds eating them. It is possible to breed your own meal worms and instructions on how to do so can be found here.
Unsalted fat from bacon and other meats can be put out for the birds but may attract lots of larger birds such as magpies and gulls as well as cats , which in turn can be a hazard for smaller birds.
Grated cheese may be eaten by robins, blackbirds and song thrushes. Choose a mild flavoured cheese.
Robins in particular like fruit which can be hung in trees or pushed on to branch ends
Beef suet is enjoyed by most birds and especially woodpeckers, nuthatches and bluebirds. It can be fed on it's own or mixed with a variety of other ingredients such as seeds, crushed nuts, dried oats, cheese and dried fruits.
Half a fresh coconut can be hung in trees for small birds such as tits to feed on.
Do not forget ground feeding birds such as blackbirds, robins, thrushes, wrens, dunnocks and chaffinches.Leave food on the floor and under trees and bushes for them. Alternatively a bird table can be used and can be safer if there are cats likely to be around.
© 2012 Claire