This is a question we often get from new bird table owners. What is best to put on your bird table to attract a good range of birds? What will the birds like best? What will be most helpful for them, and what should you avoid putting on the bird table? Well, this week we are going to take a look. Think of this as your bird table starter guide.
What to Put on Your Bird Table
A good quality seed mix should be the very first bird food you get when you start feeding birds. This will be attractive to a wide range of birds and will be appreciated all year round.
We would suggest you go for a ‘No Mess” or husk free mix. Birds like Robins, Blackbirds Dunnocks and Thrushes can’t eat seeds with the husks on. For other birds removing husks uses up valuable energy. And the husks are going to end up on the floor where they may attract rats and other unwanted visitors.
Some fat or suet. Suet products are a valuable source of energy for garden birds at any time of year but especially in the winter. You can buy them in many different forms. For the bird table, we would suggest suet pellets either on their own or as part of your see mix.
Suet blocks and fat balls can be placed on a bird table, but its not the best idea. They are better served in specialist feeders.
Some Mealworms. For birds like Blackbirds and Robins who love to eat worms, mealworms are a great treat on the bird table. They will be gobbled up super-fast.
Mealworms are welcome at any time of year but especially so when the ground is too hard for birds to get at earthworms.
A little fresh fruit. Birds love fruit, and a few little bits from your fruit bowl will go down very well. A little cut up apple or pear, a few grapes or even raisins soaked in a little warm water will be welcomed by sparrows, robins, blackbirds and thrushes.
Not Everyone Likes to Eat at the Table
All birds feed differently. Lots of birds will enjoy eating from bird tables. But others prefer to feed in different ways.
The tit family, for example, much prefer to eat from a hanging feeder and will rarely be seen at the bird tables.
And although ground feeders such as blackbirds and robins will eat from the flat surface of a bird table, they would much prefer you to serve their dinner in a ground feeder.
Variety Is The Spice of Life
The more variety you offer at your bird table, the more different species of bird you are likely to attract.
Adding kitchen scraps is a great way to add some variety and see what new bird turn up at the table.
We’ve already mentioned a little fresh fruit, grated mild cheese is also good, cooked oats or pasta and dry breakfast cereal all go down well.
You can read our full guide to kitchen scraps for your bird table here.
Always Add Water
Birds like a drink as much as the rest of us. And they like a bath too. Adding a birdbath or large dish of water to your feeding set up will make it more attractive to the birds.
Keep the water topped up and make sure it doesn’t freeze over in the winter by adding a little hot water from the kettle.
Keep it Clean
A dirty bird table or mouldy food can spread diseases. So please keep it clean.
Clear away old food each day and give the table a more thorough clean every week or so.
We have a full guide to cleaning here.
Keep it Regular
You will attract more birds to your table if they get to know that they can expect a regular meal from you. We feed ours first thing in the morning then again in the afternoon about an hour before it starts to get dark.
They are usually queueing up at feeding time.
This way you don’t waste any food, just put a little out at a time so that everything is gone by next feeding time.
What Not to Put on Your Bird Table
There are some things you just shouldn’t put on your bird table. Like a cat, for example. Joking! And checking you’re still reading!
Seriously though, some foods are good for birds, but better served in other ways.
We’ve already talked about fat balls and suet blocks, these are both much better served in specialist hanging feeders. Fat balls are likely to roll off your bird table, and both balls and blocks are just so big that, given the chance, bigger birds, like pigeons, will just gorge on them.
Nyjer Seed is highly nutritious and loved by small birds like goldfinches. But it is so fine and light it would just blow away if you put it on the bird table (it’s the closest thing to thistle seed you can buy). Use a specialist Nyjer seed feeder for this.
Lots of birds, including blue tits, love peanuts. But adding whole nuts to your table can be dangerous, especially around nesting time when they are just too big to be given to chicks. It’s better to use a peanut feeder with small holes, so the birds can’t take a whole nut all in one go.
Other food is just not right for birds at all.
Milk and salt are top of the no-no list. But bread, surprisingly, isn’t great either. You can read our full guide on what not to feed garden birds here.
And You’re Good To Go!
Choosing from the foods we’ve listed should get you off to a flying start with attracting birds to your garden.
Remember patience is key and you may need to wait a few weeks for the crowds to turn up. But you can be assured that if you fill it, they will come!
We hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found it useful. Do you have questions or suggestions? We’d love to hear them. Leave us a comment below perfectly optimized content goes here!