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If you want to encourage wild birds into your garden, then providing a regular supply of bird food is the best way to do so. Birds will feed on many different types of food so encourage a variety of species into your garden by providing a good mix of seeds, nuts, fat and live bird food as well as your household's leftovers.

Robin With Bird Food

Parent birds need protein-rich food to feed their chicks so live food is very important for birds particularly during the spring and summer months. Encourage caterpillars and insects into your garden naturally with some wildlife friendly plants. If you're not squeamish, you could also supplement their natural food supply with some mealworms, live or dried, that are available from specialist suppliers.

Don't leave out whole peanuts, or other dry hard foods during the breeding season as young chicks can choke on them. Specially formulated fledgling bird food or crushed peanuts are better and will attract robins and dunnocks. Always buy peanuts for birds from a reputable supplier so they don't contain aflatoxins, which are poisonous to birds.

Put the seeds from a dried sunflower head in a plastic feeder or on a tray and they'll attract a range of species and are safe for year round feeding. If you don't want the mess left behind from the seed casings then sunflower hearts are good alternative.

Seed mixes will attract a variety of species, but to target smaller birds, use single seed or mixes that don't contain cereals such as oatmeal and wheat. Niger seeds are very small seeds and fall out of most feeders so you will need to buy a special niger seed feeder or place them on a tray. Finches and siskins re particularly fond of niger and if you are lucky large flocks will visit your garden to feast on the oil rich seeds.

Cut a fresh coconut in half, drain it and hang it up for tits. Avoid desiccated coconut as this can swell up in bird's stomachs. You can also buy pre-prepared coconuts that are filled with a mix of bird food treats.

To survive the cold, small birds such as blue tits must eat a quarter of their body weight in food each day so high protein foods and fat are needed. Put out unsalted, finely chopped bacon rinds, solidified dripping or grated hard cheese. In the winter hang a fat feeder for some extra nutrition.

Birds will eat pet food and tinned dog or cat food is ideal as it is cheap and nutritious and is especially popular with starlings. Avoid dog biscuits though as they are too hard and may cause birds to choke.

Porridge oats or coarse oatmeal is popular with many species such as chaffinches and bramblings. You can also put out cooked potatoes and other kitchen scraps.

Although you may remember seeing blue tits pecking open the foil tops of milk bottles, never give birds milk as it can cause serious digestive problems; the blue tits were in fact after the fat-rich cream on the top of the bottles.

Plant bird friendly trees and shrubs for a continuous food supply. Holly and ivy are good winter food producers for woodpigeons, thrushes and blackcaps and they will add some colour to your garden your garden when many other plants have lost their leaves. Spindle berries play a vital role in keeping robins alive over winter.

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