How to Choose a Bird Feeder
Did you know that different garden birds like to feed in different ways? Having a variety of bird feeders in your garden is a great idea if you want to attract a variety of species.
Here’s a full lowdown on bird feeders and how to choose one:
Tray or Table Feeders
Some bird species prefer to peck their food from the ground. Robins, dunnocks, chaffinches, thrushes and blackbirds like to be on steady ground when they’re tucking into their grub. These species are most likely to make use of raised bird tables or tray feeders placed on the ground.
What features should a bird table have?
- A small bird table can lead to fighting. Birds need to have enough space to feed alongside each other.
- A smooth, straight post makes it more difficult for predators like cats and squirrels to climb up to the bird table. A metal post is perfect.
- Some bird tables have rooves. Whilst these aren’t essential, the height of the roof will determine which birds can fit onto the table. If you want to reserve food for smaller bird species, choose a bird table with a lower roof.
Lots of birds like seeds and nuts. Hanging feeders are most likely to attract birds from the tit family who are able to cling to the mesh. Greenfinches and sparrows will also make use of a hanging feeder if there is a perch for them to use. If the perch is circular you may also see some robins flying up to feed.
What features should a hanging feeder have?
- A standard hanging feeder is great if you’re just planning to use standard bird seed. But niger seeds are tiny and require a dedicated niger seed feeder. And a peanut feeder features a tighter mesh which helps to prevent whole peanuts choking younger birds.
- If squirrels, jackdaws and rooks pose a threat to your garden birds, you can find hanging feeders with a surrounding cage.
A Few More Bird Feeder Essentials
Whichever bird feeders you choose, there are a few essential features they need to have. Firstly, they should allow rainwater to drain away from the food. Secondly, they should be easy to clean.
Bird feeders can help to spread disease amongst our bird populations. So cleaning bird feeders is something we should do on a regular basis.
By choosing a selection of bird feeders and providing a variety of food, you’re sure to attract a number of different bird species to your garden. Just try to place feeders clear of predators and only provide food that is safe for birds to eat.
Feeding the Birds in Autumn
People often wonder where their garden birds disappear to in the autumn. After the excitement of the summer months when birds are mating and breeding, things tend to go a little quiet. There are a number of reasons why birds are less visible at this time of year.
Firstly, at the end of summer birds usually have access to a wide range of foods, including berries and insects, which means they’re less reliant on garden bird feeders. Secondly, birds often seclude themselves from predators as they moult – the process by which they lose their old feathers and replace them with new ones – because they’re not as agile during this time.
However, it’s still important to leave food out for your garden visitors. Moulting uses up a lot of energy. And birds need to build up their fat stores ready to survive migration or a British winter. Here are a few tips for feeding the birds in autumn:
- Leave a seed mix out for garden birds. Mixes containing flaked maize, peanuts and sunflower seeds provide high levels of fat, protein and nutrients.
Bird also love to eat leftovers, such as mild grated cheese, unsalted cooked rice and pasta. Fruit – as long as it isn’t too far past its best – is also popular.
You might not see as many birds at your bird feeders during the autumn. However, you can boost bird numbers in your garden by providing some of their other favourite foods. Plant berry-bearing trees and shrubs, such as rowan, ivy and juniper, and leave seed heads in your borders rather than clearing them away.
- Squirrels are particularly active in the autumn as they store up their larders for winter. Consider a caged bird feeder if squirrels regularly raid the bird food you leave in your garden.
- Hot autumn days aren’t that uncommon. When feeding your garden birds in autumn, keep an eye on the weather. Homemade fat balls can turn rancid on warmer days. And your bird bath might need to be topped up.
- Equally, unseasonably chilly autumn days require you to adapt the way you feed your birds. Defrost water sources if necessary. And provide food twice daily – in the morning and early afternoon – during severe cold snaps.
Feeding the birds in autumn is all about helping them through the moult and preparing them for cold winter months. With clever garden planting and a reliable supply of food in bird feeders, your garden birds will thrive through the autumn and beyond.
- Nikki Boxwild
What do Butterflies like to Eat?
Butterflies are welcome visitors in any garden. They help to pollinate plants and look beautiful to boot. If you’re keen to create your own butterfly garden, you need to know just what these colourful insects like to eat.
Butterflies eat (or drink) through their proboscis – a tube that works a bit like a straw. But they actually taste using their feet! Here are a few of their favourite foods:
The butterfly’s primary source of food is nectar. It gets nectar from plants and flowers. Butterflies prefer to visit flowers that are placed in a sunny but sheltered spot. If you’re planting your garden with butterflies in mind, try to include plants that flower throughout the season. That way you can provide a reliable supply of food from spring to early autumn.
A few nectar-rich plants you could consider for your garden include:
Verbena – This is a tall plant with lots of purple flowers on wiry stems.
Hebe – This is a reliable shrub all year round, with flowers that attract butterflies in the summer.
Perennial Wallflower – This plant produces pretty purple flowers from spring until autumn.
Buddleia – Known as the “butterfly bush”, buddleia comes in a number of colours and flowers in July and August.
Marjoram – This is a perennial herb that can grow to 80cm tall. White, pink or purple flowers grow from June to September.
Butterflies love a sweet treat. And in the autumn months, a sugary boost can help to keep them fit and healthy. If you want to provide your butterflies with an autumnal feast, leave out an overripe banana. Alternatively, if you have fruit trees in your garden, leave fallen fruit on the ground. Butterflies seem to have a particular taste for pears, plums and apples.
Butterflies are often sleepy when they first wake from their cocoons or from hibernation in the spring. If you come across a butterfly struggling to get going, you can prepare a boiled then cooled mix of sugar and water. Use a brightly coloured sponge to soak up the solution. A butterfly will take sips from it and get the boost it needs to take flight.
The glucose in nectar and fruit give butterflies their energy. But butterflies also require other nutrients. That’s why you may sometimes see them crowded around a muddy puddle. By sipping from the puddle they take in minerals and salts from the soil, which are thought to be important for reproduction.
By including a few of these food sources in your garden, you can attract butterflies for the whole of the season, making your garden into a festival of colour and life.
Boxwild sells the perfect gift for Butterfly and Bug Lovers
- Nikki Boxwild
8 Interesting Facts about Robins
The robin is a common garden visitor and was crowned Britain’s favourite bird back in 2015. Here are 8 interesting facts about these famously red breasted birds:
#1 Robins enjoy a varied diet of seeds, fruits, insects, worms and other invertebrates. They can be quite bold when searching for food, making friends with gardeners and looking out for worms in soil that’s being turned over.
#2 Despite the fact that they’re so widespread, a robin’s life expectancy is just 1.1 years. This is because mortality rates are high in the first year of life. A severe winter can have a terrible effect on the robin population. Bird tables with a regular supply of food can help.
#3 They may seem small and sociable but robins are aggressive when it comes to their territory. Males are quick to drive away intruders, fiercely attacking other males and sometimes even fighting to the death.
#4 We don’t really know how the robin came to be a symbol of Christmas. But we do know that robins can be found in our gardens all year round. They’re one of the only birds in the UK which can be heard singing on Christmas Day.
#5 Robins have been helping scientists with their research into magnetic fields. It’s thought that a specific substance in the birds’ eyes allows them to actually see the Earth’s magnetic field. This helps to explain how migratory robins from Northern Europe find their way south for the winter.
#6 Robins usually build their nest on or near the ground. They make use of sheds, kettles, boots, coat pockets and farm machinery – whatever nook or cranny they can find. They use nest boxes too, but only if they are open fronted and placed in a secluded location.
#7 Both male and female robins sing for most of the year. They take a break when they’re moulting and want to remain inconspicuous. Their song also changes throughout the year. In the spring, their song sounds powerful and lively. During the autumn it takes on a more subdued tone.
#8 Robins are active in the dimmest of light. They’re one of the first bird species to start singing in the morning and one of the last to stop in the evening. They can sometimes even be heard singing in the night, particularly if there are streetlights nearby.
Welcome robins to your garden with a well-stocked bird table or ground feeder and you’ll be treated to beautiful song all year round.
Boxwild Sells the perfect gift for those who love Robins: Robin Bird Seed Gift Box
8 Interesting Facts about Butterflies
Seeing butterflies fluttering round your garden is one of the first welcome signs that spring has sprung. Here are 8 interesting facts about these beautiful creatures:
#1 There are around 24,000 different species of butterfly around the world. The only continent without butterflies is Antarctica. In the UK, we have around 56 native species of butterfly.
#2 Each butterfly species chooses a select few plants on which to lay their eggs. Every species has their own preference. They find suitable plants through a combination of sight, smell and taste.
#3 Butterflies suck up nectar through their proboscis. And they taste with sensors on their feet rather than through their mouths. Nectar is their favourite food but butterflies have also been known to eat tree sap, dung, pollen and rotting fruit.
#4 Different butterfly species have different lifespans. The common blue might only spend a few days as an adult butterfly. In contrast, the peacock butterfly emerges from its cocoon in August, hibernates over winter and can still be seen in June the following year.
#5 The number of butterfly species in the UK is boosted in the summer. Around a dozen different species migrate to the UK from across the world. One of the most famous varieties is the painted lady, which travels all the way from North Africa to Europe.
#6 Many butterflies are endangered. Over the last 150 years, five species have become extinct in Britain. They are the large copper, mazarine blue, black-veined white, large blue and large tortoiseshell. However, there are hopes that the black-veined white may be able to return to the UK due to rising average temperatures.
#7 Butterflies are cold blooded. But they need to raise their body to temperature to 27⁰c in order to take flight. They do this by basking in the sun and vibrating their flight muscles. Because they can’t cope with the UK’s low winter temperatures, most butterflies enter a dormant phase as either an egg, larva or pupa. Some also hibernate.
#8 Peacock, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, comma and brimstone butterflies spend the winter as adults. They try to find an outbuilding, a log pile or vegetation in which to hibernate. However, this hibernation isn’t total. If the winter sun is warm enough, these butterflies can wake up which is why they can be spotted all year round. If woken, they’ll find food and then resume their hibernation.
If you’d like to see more butterflies in your garden, try planting nectar-rich plants and flowers. You could also make them feel more at home by installing a butterfly box. Boxwild sells the perfect gift for a Butterfly Lover!
- Nikki Boxwild
How to Choose Bird Seed
When it comes to feeding your garden birds, there’s an incredible selection of bird seed to choose from. Each blend has its own recipe and ingredients. Here are a few of the most common bird seed ingredients you’ll come across and the birds that like to eat them:
Niger seeds are small and black and have a high oil content. Goldfinches, siskins, greenfinches, nuthatches, sparrows and tits are all regularly seen tucking into niger seed. However, because niger seeds are so small, a special niger seed bird feeder is required.
Sunflower seeds are enjoyed by blackbirds, blue tits, chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches and house sparrows. They have a high oil and fat content, making them a great food source throughout the whole of the year.
Tits and greenfinches love to eat peanuts. Robins, dunnocks and wrens are also partial to them. Peanuts in a seed mix should be little more than granules. If you’re choosing a whole peanut bird feed, it’s important to put it in a dedicated peanut feeder, which will prevent birds from choking on bigger chunks of nut.
Because of their hard outer shell, safflower seeds are preferred by birds with a strong beak, such as the house finch. Squirrels don’t like safflower seeds so they’re a good option if you’re trying to deter these animals from your bird feeders.
Millet seeds are a favourite amongst doves, dunnocks, finches and sparrows. These seeds are lower in fat than some other varieties. But they are very nutritious, containing high levels of protein. And they’re easy to digest too.
Blackbirds and robins love flaked maize. It has the highest oil and energy content of all cereals and it’s perfect for feeding trays.
Why is it important to choose quality bird seed?
The quality of a bird seed depends on the ingredients used. The best seed mixes contain plenty of sunflower seeds, peanuts and flaked maize.
Cheaper, lower quality bird seeds contain a lot of “filler”. These are seeds and grains, like wheat, dried rice and lentils. This filler content attracts bigger birds, such as rooks and jackdaws, but is often bypassed by smaller birds.
Low quality feed may even include dog biscuits that you’ll see as pink or green lumps in the mix. These are only edible to birds when soaked so should definitely be avoided.
Choosing the best quality bird seed allows you to provide a nutritious meal for your garden birds. It will also see them returning again and again for another tasty treat.