My poor tits have been really suffering of late, what with the untimely appearance of Spring seriously putting their beaks out and then this freezing weather having dampened their spirits, they don’t know whether they’re coming or going. So, as a dedicated bird lover, I have been feeding them non stop with treats and tit bits from my kitchen. But imagine my horror when I came across a website that advised what not to feed our feathery winged friends, most of which was already out on the bird table. I ran as quickly as I could and snatched the last morsel of a Mr Kiplings French Fancy out of the mouth of an evil looking blackbird, who could have been an extra from a Hitchcock film, and dashed indoors. There I made a list of what they could eat safely. But before I give you that, here’s what not to feed them:
How many times have you seen people feeding bread to ducks, geese or swans on a pond or lake? Too many as bread is one of the worse things you can give to a bird to eat. It has hardly any nutrients in it and if fed to young birds can cause ‘angel wing’. This is a disease where the last joint of the wing is twisted with the wing feathers pointing out laterally, rather than lying against the body.
As high levels of salt in food for humans is bad, so it is for birds. Therefore, avoid any foods that are high in salt such as cooked meats, crisps and salted nuts.
Rotten bird seed
Bird seed can actually go off if it is not stored correctly and will begin to harbour bacteria and parasites that are harmful to birds. Check that your bird seed is fresh by smelling it and seeing if it has started to sprout. If it has and it smells rotten then throw it out.
Crisps and cakes
You would think that the high fat content in cakes and crisps would make these items ideal for feeding to the birds. However, apart from the fat, they offer little other nutritional value to birds and the chemicals used in processing them can be harmful.
Pesticides on fruit and vegetables
If you want to give your birds fruit and vegetables then make sure you have washed them first, to get off any pesticides and any other toxic chemicals. It is best however, to feed your birds organically grown produce or items that have come from your own garden.
Many birds are carnivorous but if you put out raw meat for them you will be attracting other animals such as foxes and rats into your garden. And meat does not keep well, particularly in the Summer months.
Did you know that birds are lactose intolerant and cannot process milk? They can process small quantities of dairy products or a little grated hard cheese but stay clear of soft cheeses, milk puddings or any other food with a lot of milk in them.
Now you know what is bad for them, here are some ideas for foods you can feed your birds:
Place sunflower seeds in a plastic feeder or on a tray and you’ll get a range of species dining there all year round. If you want to see smaller birds then use a single seed mix such as niger seeds for finches, or ones that don’t contain cereals such as oatmeal and wheat. If you like the look of tits in your garden then buy a coconut, cut it in half, drain it and hang it up for them as a real treat. Small birds need to eat a quarter of their body weight in food each day so leave out high protein foods and fats such as unsalted, finely chopped bacon rinds, solidified dripping or grated hard cheese. In the winter hang a fat feeder for some extra nutrition. Birds such as starlings will eat pet food and tinned dog or cat food is ideal.