Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Birds in Your Garden

A mix of food

By varying the mix of foods you provide you’ll be catering for birds of all shapes and sizes.

Sunflower seeds are popular with greenfinches, whereas goldfinches prefer niger seed - but be patient, they may take their time in finding your offerings. In fact, black sunflower seeds attract most finches and tits and if you save the birds the effort of removing the husks by using sunflower hearts, you will be even more popular.

Robins and blackbirds love mealworms, preferably live or dried with added water. Fat balls provide a great calorie boost for hungry birds, especially long-tailed tits. ­ Birds can get stuck in the mesh bags so its wise to remove these. Peanuts are a reliable standard offering; chopped for smaller and softer-billed birds or whole in the hope of attracting nuthatches or great spotted woodpeckers.

Kitchen scraps add variety to a bird's diet ­ try cooked veg, especially potato, and fresh fruit such as apple. Birds also benefit from finely grated cheese, pinhead oatmeal and uncooked porridge oats.

Buy bird food

Ordering your bird food from Vine House Farm is great for all local wildlife as every time a Somerset Wildlife Trust member places an order we receive a five per cent donation. Browse the shop

Feeding techniques

Using different feeding techniques will also help attract as many birds as possible into your garden.

Bird feeders are likely to attract many finches, tits, sparrows and even great spotted woodpeckers, but for larger birds a bird table is best.

Many birds, such as thrushes, fieldfares, redwings and blackbirds, feed on the ground so scattering some food is good for those that are reluctant to use bird tables. Attract treecreepers by smearing food into cracks in treetrunks.


Stone bird baths make great garden ornaments but if you don’t have one a shallow sided container, placed on the ground, it just as good. Go for something at least 30cm in diameter that can hold up to 5cm deep of water. You’ll need to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t freeze over in really cold weather.

Bird health & safety

  • Move your bird table from time to time to avoid stale food and excrement accumulating.
  • Salty foods should never be put out, and dried foods such as desiccated coconut, can be fatal as they swell in birds' stomachs.
  • Bread can be nutritionally lacking compared with other foods ­- if it is put out wet it first to avoid swelling in the stomach.
  • Milk should be avoided along with soft fats and oils which can soil feathers.
  • Birds are susceptible to food poisoning too, and raw meats or mouldy food should not be provided.
  • Be careful to site feeders to allow for all-round vision so the birds can be vigilant.

For more information about safely feeding the birds in your garden visit the Vine House Farm website by clicking here.

Avian Pox

A virus causing avian pox has been spreading across the country, from the east reaching as far as Wiltshire. It originally affected house sparrows and wood pigeons but now, more seriously, is developing in great tits. It causes nasty lesions and growths, particularly around the eyes. The virus is spread between birds by biting insects that carry the virus, direct contact with other birds and, indirect contact possibly through contaminated bird feeders. Sightings of any birds with signs of this disease should be reported to the RSPB Wildlife Enquiries Unit on 01767 693690 or reported online here.

Helping winter wildlife

You can find more information about helping the wildlife in your garden this winter on our wildlife gardening pages. You can also sign up to receive our free seasonal wildlife gardening newsletter by clicking here.

Blue Tit

Blue Tit





Bullfinch by Ben Simmonds



Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker


Photograph of Blue Tit © Lynne Newton




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Treecreeper © Harry Hogg; Goldfinch © Gillian Day; Bullfinch © Ben Simmonds; Great Spotted Woodpecker courtesy of Wikipedia