If you have the space, a wildlife garden (please read 'Gardening For Wildlife') coupled with supplementary feeding, is an excellent way to attract a wide range of wild birds and other wildlife. If, however, space is limited there are still many ways to provide food for your local friends and even if you have no garden there are still possibilities.
What foods to feed is a matter of preference, budget and space, but typically seed mixes, peanuts, sunflower seeds, suet products and even live foods are all on the menu. Avoid salted foods, these can kill wild birds, and dehydrated foods and uncooked rice can swell inside birds and may also be fatal. In fact many people would generally put out the foods that they feel are relative to the birds that are currently in their garden, however it is recommended you try different foods to attract different birds. Despite the popularity of feeding bread, it is not a particularly good food for wild birds unless soaked in fat as it contains very little nutritional value, seeds, peanuts, raisins and suet are far more beneficial sources of food.
As the name suggests these wild bird foods consist of a blend of different seeds, each blend designed to appeal to a different range of wild bird species. They range from relatively inexpensive mixes of common seeds such as wheat, sunflower seeds, oats, corn, and millet to high energy husk free varieties designed to reduce mess and wastage whilst maximising levels of energy provided.
They can be fed on the ground and on tables but more commonly from suitable seed feeder.
These are wild bird foods such as peanuts, sunflower hearts and niger seed, which are not significantly processed or mixed after harvest, that provide wild birds with high levels of energy due to their high oil content. Peanuts and sunflower hearts will appeal to a range of wild birds whereas niger seed is a particular favourite of Finches. Peanuts and sunflower hearts can be fed from the ground, on tables or in peanut or seed feeders, but during the breeding season it is advisable to limit peanuts to feeders to prevent young choking on whole peanuts. niger seed, due to its small size and the ease with which it can blow away, is best fed from suitable feeders, most seed feeders have the ability to be adapted to suit niger seed, simply by rotating part of the feeding points.
Products made with suet, a fat derived from beef, often mixed with other ingredients, are an excellent way to provide a wide range of wild birds with high levels of energy and are typically provided in one of several product types. These can be fed either on the ground or on tables and even fed from peanut feeders.
Usually ball shaped mixes of fat, seeds and flours these are an extremely popular and convenient way to feed wild birds, and are a particular favourite amongst clinging birds such as Blue Tits and Great Tits. They can be fed from specialist fatball feeders or broken up are ideal for ground and table feeding.
Suet cakes are typically wide, 6-8cm, cylindrical mixes of suet, seeds and flour, often with a built in hanger to allow for hanging from a branch, bracket or table and are a particular favourite of Blue Tits and other clingers. Suet Blocks are usually approximately 10cm square, 4cm thick mixes of suet, seeds and flour which can be fed from suitable feeders or directly on the ground or tables.
These are small, 3-8mm, cylindrical pellets of fat and flour with, for example, small amounts of fruit, berries or mealworms for added attraction. They can be fed from seed feeders but are more typically sprinkled on tables or on the ground, where they are loved by Blackbirds, or can be added to seed mixes or other foods as a high energy boost.