If food shortages occur when birds have young in the nest they may be tempted by easy food put on bird tables to make up the shortfall in natural food, initially to feed themselves, but if the situation gets bad enough, they will also take the food to the nest.
At this time of year, put out food and water on a regular basis. In severe weather, feed twice daily if you can: in the morning and in the early afternoon. Birds require high-energy (high-fat) foods during the cold winter weather to maintain their fat reserves to survive the frosty nights. Always adjust the quantity given to the demand, and never allow uneaten foods to accumulate around the feeders. Once you establish a feeding routine, try not to change it as the birds will become used to it and time their visits to your garden accordingly.
During the summer months, birds require high protein foods, especially while they are moulting. Only feed selected foods at this time of year. Good hygiene is vital, or feeding may do more harm than good.
This may seem obvious but lots of people feed the wrong type of seed for the types of birds visiting their gardens. Understand what birds visit your garden then you will understand what they need to eat and survive. There are different mixes for feeders, for bird tables and for ground feeding. The better mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds and peanut granules. Small seeds, such as millet, attract mostly house sparrows, dunnocks, finches, reed buntings and collared doves, while flaked maize is taken readily by blackbirds. Tits and greenfinches favour peanuts and sunflower seeds. Mixes that contain chunks or whole nuts are suitable for winter feeding only. Pinhead oatmeal is excellent for many birds.
Avoid seed mixtures that have split peas, beans, dried rice or lentils as again only the large species can eat them dry. These are added to some cheaper seed mixes to bulk them up. Also avoid any mixture containing green or pink lumps as these are dog biscuit, which can only be eaten when soaked.
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