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If you feed your garden birds come and talk to me...

(19 Posts)
SusanHollander Sun 05-Jul-15 11:47:11

It's a new 'hobby' of mine and I'm loving it. DH calls me 'mad bird woman' as I offer a 5* Michelin dining experience with sunflower hearts, peanuts, suet pellets, soaked sultanas, apple, cheese, wild bird mix, Niger seed (though have yet to have any goldfinches visit).

Do you feed the garden birds and what they do enjoy? I've had to modify the bird table to keep three very bright and greedy pigeons at bay. I don't mind them eating from the lawn but when the bird table was accessible one would settle in and eat the entire lot every time I filled it.

Bird wise I have an abundance of house sparrows, a robin, Mr&Mrs Blackbird, three fat pigeons and my beloved Song Thrush who only comes rarely since the blackbirds chased her off every time. Initially she would sit in the garden for half an hour at a time but now she just nips in and out and I only see her occasionally....I say 'she' could be a 'he' I suppose!

shovetheholly Sun 05-Jul-15 18:15:16

I'm no expert, but I have four kinds of feeder

- a seed feeder, which the little blue tits seem to love
- a nyjer seed feeder, which hung in the tree for ages before the finches found it. They have now, though!
- a dried mealworm feeder, which robins and blackbirds seem to enjoy. I suspect thrushes might like this too.
- a suet feeder, which is generally pounced on by the squirrels rather than anything with feathers

The last takes a bit of steeling yourself at first, because the worms are very strange to handle and look a bit like they are moving! They are not. It's an optical illusion, but it did take me a few times before I could do it without flinching.

aircooled Sun 05-Jul-15 21:53:06

Crikey, real gourmet stuff! I've loved watching birds for years and have logged 50 different ones in my garden. Advice used to be that you shouldn't feed birds during the nesting season as there should be enough natural food around and nestlings might choke on peanuts etc but now I've read that birds don't give unsuitable food to their young, and having attracted them during the winter it's sensible to offer the parents some when they need it. I usually reduce the food I put out during the summer but I could see that the blackbirds were desperate to find food for their brood during this really dry spell so I helped them out.

Birds are great for pest control though. A young bluetit was braving the teasel spines to pick off greenfly and last week I saw four tiny goldcrest fledglings huddled together on a branch of an Acer - the parent was collecting aphids from under the leaves to feed them. So cute!

Have you put up plenty of nesting boxes too?

Ferguson Sun 05-Jul-15 23:00:25

Re Nyjer seed - if you use a proper Nyjer feeder with smaller openings, I found the seed can get damp and clog the opening. For months I thought the seed wasn't being eaten, but it was because it wasn't dropping down so the birds could reach it. So check that your Nyjer seed is getting to where the birds can get it. Some years ago, we had about ten goldfinches in the garden.

agoodbook Sun 05-Jul-15 23:10:33

I have been a birdwatcher and feeder for many years.
I feed a nut mix with raisins in feeders.- some normal, though these empty quickly with the sparrows and starlings. I also have two with cages around them to only allow the small birds to feed, so these help the tits.
Nyger seed ,fat balls ( without the netting ) in feeders, and suet blocks. I only use nuts and meal worms in winter though. I also throw on the ground cheeses rinds/ stale bread and such. I do have a dedicated bird feeding area made with stone flags otherwise the seeds germinate everywhere! I also have two water bowls with stones in so it is available for drinking/cleaning .
Dont forget to empty and clean them regularly ( horrible, fiddly job!)

agoodbook Sun 05-Jul-15 23:11:21

I said a nut mix, and I meant seed mix with raisins!

SusanHollander Mon 06-Jul-15 10:03:46

shovetheholly I have put out mealworms which they love but two local places are sold out at present....I guess it's a popular time. They do creep me out a bit and I'm very careful not to touch them grin Some people grow their that is dedication!

air that is such a lovely story! I bet you loved watching that! I haven't put up any nesting boxes yet but DH is going to make me some / show me how to make some in his workshop

ferguson - noted! I've got the proper feeder and hadn't thought about that so I'll go and check. I'm in a lovely area where I know finches reside so I just need to tempt them in. I always wonder 'how' they know where to go!

agoodbook I cleaned out an old feeder yesterday....pretty gross job that one as I hadn't used it in ages. I'm bring sure to clean the bird table often too to keep diseases at bay.

Bunbaker Mon 06-Jul-15 10:12:19

We had to give up on the niger seed for the reasons Ferguson has given. We also stopped the suet balls because the birds weren't interested.

Currently we offer sunflower hearts and mixed seed and attract goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, robins, blackbirds, sparrows, collared doves and wood pigeons. We have had the occasional nuthatch and, on rarer occasions, a thrush. Not all at the same time of course. It is mainly wood pigeons at the moment. They sit under the bird feeder and wait for the smaller birds to drop bits of seeds down.

The bird food is spread between a bird table, bird feeder and a ground feeder with a cage round it to stop the wood pigeons form using it.

At this time of year we have a dish of water out for the birds as well.

When it is really sunny the blackbirds sunbathe. They sit in the flower bed and spread their wings out.

HaveYouSeenHerLately Mon 06-Jul-15 16:26:14

Hi Susan and everyone - I too love feeding the birds smile I'm in a moderately cat-heavy area so I have the feeders hooked up high in a laburnum tree with a wild hedge underneath (the 'woodland' section of my garden!). They seem to like this and it means the cats don't bother them at all. I also have a birdbath which I keep clean and topped up.

I feed black sunflower seeds (poundland) in the feeder as they seem to attract small and large birds. Striped sunflower seeds go in a foil tray (with drainage holes) on the ground for the bigger birds/ fat squirrel. I have had a few germinating in the lawn thanks

Wilkinson do a 'no mess' seed mix of crushed up seeds which promise not to germinate wink although I'm currently using a Morrisons seed which was 99p and seems a bit more varied than the usual cheap mix.

I also put out fat balls (mesh removed), squares and half coconuts which go down well (greedy starlings).

I refill the half coconuts with a mixture of all the seeds, some oats and some supermarket lard melted in the microwave and drizzled over. I read that this was a 'safe' fat to use when making your own bird treats. I put it in the fridge or freezer to set and the birds love it. Works out slightly cheaper than buying new.

I've not bothered with peanuts yet as we've had a mild winter in the SE and I worried about baby birds choking in the spring.
I'd planned to leave the suet/fats until the autumn but the birds have scoffed the last lot I put out so I'm using up what I have then I'll stick with seeds for the hot summer. I'm trying to encourage them to eat the pests in my garden and not rely 100% on the feeders at this time of year wink

I also drop the odd wrinkly apple in the fat ball feeder and it disappears!

Poundland had a cute range of plastic fruit-shaped feeders when I was in recently. Not sure how squirrel proof they'd be but I was tempted. They also had a hanging teacup and saucer (pottery).

Sorry for the essay!

lutra3d Mon 06-Jul-15 16:32:24

I put out seed mostly. I have feeders for the small birds. I have no fat balls at the moment but the magpies love them when they are out. I get mostly sparrows, tits and pigeons.

If you put meat out you will get crows and magpies. I did this for a while but didn't like the idea of the crows being around with fledgling birds. The blackbirds seem to love meat as well. I water my lawn regularly as it seems to help the blackbirds to find worms.

Hornydilemma Mon 06-Jul-15 16:35:21

I had a family of robins on the ground under my feeder for a while, mopping up the bits that dropped, they appear to have moved on now (I could recognise their song - which was more like a tick-tick - in the dawn chorus but no sign of it now)

However one of them hopped into my shed and caught the most HUMONGOUS spider which had been there for 6 mths - I'd been avoiding that corner. I gave him a cheer!

HaveYouSeenHerLately Mon 06-Jul-15 16:48:12

Like aircooled I thought you were meant to ease off the feeding during the spring/summer but concur the current advice is to feed year-round as bird populations are struggling and natural habitat/insect population diminishes sad

I only put out what the birds eat (and I make them finish the slightly less popular choices before I replenish the tastiest stuff!). This saves any waste and keeps the feeders cleaner for longer.

I feel really proud that my one-woman feeding mission has brought about a surge in birdlife in mine and the neighbouring gardens in the last 6 months. Last year we had crows, magpies and pigeons. That was it shock Zero birdsong.
This year I have starlings, blackbirds, robins, various tits, sparrows and probably a few other things that I haven't identified (feeders are screened by the tree's leaves). Red kites and buzzards too, although I haven't seen them on the feeders wink You constantly hear birdsong and there are teams of sparrows in the front gardens (next to a heavy traffic school route).

The difference is really noticeable. I'm taking credit as none of the ten surrounding gardens feed the birds...

HaveYouSeenHerLately Mon 06-Jul-15 16:53:32

Horny I applaud your robin, too! The cat caught (and ate) the last big spider I found in the garden eww!

Dad has a cheeky blackbird that stomps on the lawn of an evening to bring the worms to the surface grin

SusanHollander Mon 06-Jul-15 19:04:04

horny how fabulous! I would love a family of robins, maybe this year my visiting robin will bring his lady friend and visit my B&B grin

Also bloomin' marvellous ref the spider....anything that eats them has my vote!

haveyou you should be v.proud of yourself! I've always heard bird song around my area as it's very leafy but since I started feeding them I have a constant stream of visitors all day. This morning I watched a sparrow getting suet pellets from the feeder and feeding it's young for about five- ten minutes, it was amazing and I loved the sparrow's dedication - he was up and down at that feeder multiple times! Mr. Blackbird has also been loads today AND my song thrush has visited front and back twice that I've seen - unless it's a pair, there was a pair originally but I tend to only see one at the moment. I've got my toddlers into it and they avidly watch the comings and goings grin

SusanHollander Mon 06-Jul-15 19:05:56

lutra I really don't like crows so won't put meat out.

TheFogsGettingThicker Tue 07-Jul-15 19:13:04

I haven't got my feeders up at the moment as my garden has been a building site sad, but my next door neighbour is an enthusiastic bird feeder so our local population is still catered for smile

We are lucky in that we back onto fields, so we have a wide range of birds. We feed a mixture (I pass onto neighbour seed etc that I've bought) of fat balls (the woodpeckers love them) seed mix, nyger seed (we have lots of various finches), peanut nibbles, sunflower hearts, and they all LOVE suet pellets (the Wilko ones are reasonably priced and very popular).

I used to fret about feeding them in summer, I too worried about the babies being fed a too high fat diet - but i was reassured by someone the parent birds used the feeders as a drive-thru and would help keep them going.

Maybe your song thrush is the pair - do the two sexes look alike?

AnulTheMagnificent Tue 07-Jul-15 23:58:23

I stopped using the mixed seed as it resulted in a lawn full of weeds which I am unable to shift.

I leave a couple of fat balls in one feeder which used to attract blue tits, last year there was an awful noise and I haven't seen them since, I have moved it away from branches as the magpies were getting into it and they are bullies.

I chop up apple and throw it on the grass for the woodies and blackbirds, they wait on the fence for it. There is also a robin.

SusanHollander Wed 08-Jul-15 09:39:10

Well fog I've been thinking that it may be a pair. The sexes are similar. Also the back garden thrush wasn't seen off by the blackbird, instead the blackbird left, so I'm wondering if one sex is more dominant....I'd say the male but females can be pretty bossy too wink

My robin is also visiting front and back - again unless there are two as I know they're territorial so one may be staking front and one back, though I guess it's more likely to be the same one. It always go to the coconut shell stuffed with suet whicg I've hung on some trellis and has a munch.

Anul they do love apple don't they!

Mitzimaybe Fri 10-Jul-15 19:11:36

I've just started (in a new - to me - garden) and have gone a bit mad (and spent a fortune.) The previous owner took all his bird feeders with him except one peanut feeder which isn't popular. I've now got a fat ball (removed the mesh and only put out one ball at a time, as in a previous house I filled the feeder (3 balls) and they hardly got touched.) I've also got a suet & bug block, a suet-filled coconut shell, niger seed, mixed seeds, and dried mealworms.

I've only seen the most common birds so far, and nothing on the niger seeds as yet, although the previous owner said goldfinches would visit sometimes, and I think I've heard their twittering although not seen them yet. Ferguson - would you recommend using a feeder with larger holes? I've just paid a fortune for a special niger seed feeder!

The dried mealworms seem to be the most popular, so far. It says on the packet that you can soak them in warm water before putting them out, to rehydrate them and make them better for the birds. Has anyone tried this? I've also ordered some live mealworms and waxworms. Yikes! Not really looking forward to handling them, but the dried ones don't bother me at all.

I hadn't thought of apples and like the idea, if some have gone soft, instead of putting them on the compost heap. Thanks for the suggestion!

I really hope I can keep this up, once I've started, especially through the winter.

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