Feeding our feather friends

In cities and in the country, winter is rapidly approaching. Young and old alike love to feed wild birds. This is especially welcomed by Blackbirds, Thrushes, Finches, Robins and other native bird species in the colder months, when their natural food supply is scarce. How can we feed our feathered friends? Find out about the most popular methods from the animal experts at Maxi Zoo.

Bird houses

Bird houses have been hung in trees for hundreds of years and are still bird lovers’ preferred feeding method today. Only put out as much feed as birds can eat in one day as leftovers can easily go bad, creating a breeding ground for germs. Cleanliness is in any case the number one rule for bird houses. Feed soiled with droppings can transmit disease and harm our feathered friends. Clean bird houses regularly, preferably at least twice a week, with a cloth and hot water. Architecture is important too – bird houses should have a large roof overhang to protect feed from rain and snow and avoid the colour red as this has an alarm effect.

Beware of cats

However you decide to feed your feathered friends, food sources should always be out of reach of cats (at least 1.5 m high) out in the open and away from natural climbing aids. Birds are distracted when they are feeding so it is a good idea to have everything in sight with a branch of a tree or bush nearby for a quick escape if need be.

Something a little different

As an alternative to bird houses, there are also different types of feed dispensers or silos. The advantage of these is that birds cannot walk through the feed. A roof protects against moisture. You can easily set up several small feed sources in your garden with free-hanging seed balls, bars, rings or home-made clay pot feeders.

Bird lovers can also scatter seeds and grains on the ground, where birds look for their feed in nature. This can however easily become contaminated or mouldy. As a rule, only scatter feed on the ground on frosty days, never too much and ideally in a different spot every time.

Species-appropriate feeding

Our native birds have different dishes on their respective menus. Make sure to vary your offerings so that you don’t just feed omnivores or seed-eaters. You can buy feed mixes with dried fruit and oats for omnivores such as Blackbirds, Thrushes and Robins, who eat fruit, insects and worms. Seed eaters like Finches, Tits or Sparrows can pry open hard shells or grains with their beaks and can be given sunflower seeds, hemp seed or wild bird mixes. Never feed birds leftover food, bread, or salty or sweet foods!

Grain eating birds are finches, buntings, siskins, bullfinches, larks and sparrows, while blackbirds, thrushes, robins, wrens and goldcrests are soft food eaters which cannot bite through grain shells. And how long should the birds be fed in winter? That depends on the length of the winter and the natural food on offer. In some regions, food is becoming scarce and not plentiful in spring. If insects as well as frost-free fields and gardens are available again, feeding is stopped slowly so that the birds readapt to self supply. Feeding during the nesting period can lead to deficiencies in the young as the parent birds bring grains instead of insects to the nest. Therefore, feeding should absolutely be stopped in spring. By the way: Even if many animal lovers mean well – birds do not need additional drinking spots in winter. Snow and rain are normally sufficient.

Call into your local store today to discuss your bird’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts.