The best foods for feeding wild birds

Feeding wild birds in our gardens  has become incredibly popular over the last couple of years and there are so many different foods and treats  to offer your garden friends.

You need to be sure that the food you have bought is both delicious and  provides valuable energy and nourishment to the wild birds in your garden.

We have put together a list of the best food sources to offer so that you can be sure birds are well nourished and keep coming back for more.

1. Good Quality Mixed Seed

The NAtional Trust Nuttery acorn seed feeder squirrel proof feeder for wild birds with sparrows feeding
My Favourites. Wild bird feeder for little clinging birds.

A quality everyday mixed seed mix is a convenient and economical way to to feed garden birds. A quality bird seed mix will have a large proportion of sunflower seeds and other small seeds such as millet, with cracked corn and valuable food sources such as pinhead oats that will satisfy many of the little birds. 

Wheat and other grains do have their place in a good mixed seed and are eaten by house sparrow, collared doves, yellowhammer, wood pigeons and pheasant. Some people may find the population of birds in their gardens do not eat many grains and prefer the small seeds and peanut pieces, if so mixes containing just small seeds and peanut pieces could be a  better choice.

Premium mixes may contain peanut pieces, insects and even suet pellets to provide easily available energy and protein.

Seed blends designed to appeal to songbirds such as blackbirds and robins will have dehulled sunflower hearts which are easier for these soft billed birds to manage.

Different ingredients will attract different species of birds, so try and learn a little more about who is visiting your garden and what will attract them. You can learn more about common garden visitors in our bird library.

.............and YES there are such things as bad seed mixes!

Avoid seed mixes with split peas, beans and dried rice and lentils as only large species can eat them dry. Some cheap mixes are even bulked up with dry dog biscuit pieces which can only be eaten when soaked.

Some cheaper seed mixes are consist of nearly all grains. This is fine if you are only feeding large birds such as pigeons, pheasant and magpies, but if you want to attract and feed little clinging birds and songbirds then you are going to need higher proportions of sunflower seeds, pinhead oats, millet and even peanut pieces.

2. Peanuts

Red Barn squirrel guardian peanut feeder for feeding wild birds with nuthatch

Peanuts are a fantastic source of food for all sorts of wild birds. High in calories and rich in fats they appeal to a wide range of bird species including tits, finches, nuthatches, woodpeckers.

Make sure they are good quality peanuts and have been tested and shown to be aflatoxin free meaning they are safe for birds to eat. We advise feeding peanuts in  feeders similar those in the pictures above.

Peanuts are perfect for feeding right through the cold winter months as they do not feed in very cold temperatures.

National Trust Peanut Butter Feder with Great Tit Feeding
Wild birds feeding on Flutter Butter, salt free peanut butter
Flutter Butter Flowerbed feeder in pink with a robin and blue tit

Tits and robins in particular find salt free peanut butter for birds absolutely delicious and irresistible.

Easy to just pop into specially designed peanut butter feeders and  mess free to handle, you can tempt little birds to your garden by providing this easily digestible and valuable food source. Just make sure not to feed peanut butter designed for human consumption, it is too high in salt  for birds.

3. Suet

Young femaale woodpecker feeding from suet blocks

One of the best high calorie foods to offer your garden birds. A superb winter food available in different forms and flavours. Blensded with different seeds and insects,designed to tempt and satisfy hungry birds.

Feed as suet blocks, balls or logs in cages hanging from branches and bird feeding stations for clinging birds such as tits and finches.

Chop up into small pieces or use suet pellets and place in dishes, tray feeders and on tables for ground feeding birds such as robins and songbirds.

Improve the calories in seed mixes by mixing in handfuls of delicious berry, peanut or apple suet pellets.

4. Sunflower Seeds

Gold finch perched on feeder full of sunflower hearts.
Great tit perching on a wild bird feeder eating sunflower seed

Black sunflower seeds are some of the best food to offer at any time of the year. With the thinnest of shells and a very high oil content they are a very efficient and nutritious food for our garden birds.

These seeds are really versatile and can be offered in seed feeders, on the ground and from tables and trays. Sometimes the build up of husks can be messy in some gardens and an alternative is to offer dehulled sunflower hearts.

Apart from being pretty much mess free sunflower hearts are easily managed by soft billed species such as robins and blackbirds which struggle to remove husks from black sunflower seeds.

5. Kitchen Scraps

Many birds will gladly eat apple, pears, soft and dried fruit. You can chop up and soak dried fruit in some water to soften the fruit before putting it out.

Fruit cake, unsalted nuts and grapes will be gratefully received.

Tempt timid little birds such as dunnocks and wrens with grated mild cheese scattered under a bush.

Just remember ot to put out any grapes/currents or raisins where any dogs or cats can reach them as they are toxic to pets.

Try something new such as a new type of seed mix, suet flavour or some fresh fruit and see who visits, maybe you can attract someone new to your garden.

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