Which food scraps can you safely feed to garden birds?
DeWaldens Garden Centre bird feeders fly out the door at this time of year but if you’ve ever had an attack of guilt in your garden, bread in hand, because of a flashback to a notice forbidding you from feeding it to waterbirds at ponds, read on.
Bread is good enough for the lady that feeds the birds, tuppence a bag, in Mary Poppins but should you be feeding your garden birds with it?
Birds can digest all types of bread, crusts, cakes and biscuits, but strictly speaking, it should be only one component in an ideally varied diet for these little balls of fluff to help keep them in tiptop health.
Bread lacks the essential protein and fat birds need from their diet, and so it can act as an empty filler, but according to the RSPB, bread isn’t harmful to birds. Just to try not to feed them too much of the stuff because its nutritional value is practically zero.
But please don’t leave it on the ground overnight or you might attract vermin - and that’s why one of our bird feeders is ideal. It can also spread bacteria, and birds will not touch food that is off.
Soaking the bread makes it more easily digestible, and brown is better for them than white. Crumble it into tiny pieces because dry chunks can choke baby birds.
High quantities of salt is toxic to birds and can affect their nervous system because they're practically unable to metabolise it. In the wild, birds are unlikely to take harmful amounts of salt, so please never put out salted food onto the bird table, and never add salt to bird baths to keep water from freezing in winter.
Kitchen scraps not only keep their wee wings beating and make them all nice and cosy, they also provide the birds with the additional essential fats and carbohydrates that are especially important during winter and their nesting season.
You’ll also be reducing the amount of waste that could potentially end up in landfill by feeding garden birds.
Again, you can simply place the kitchen scraps on a bird table from DeWaldens Garden Centre, or chop them small and add to seed mix in a feeder. You can even mix with suet and press into a plastic container or coconut half, say, on top of the bird table to make an easy fat feeder for the wee birdies.
If you're a Bake Off fan but you're still a bit of a novice and you keep mucking up, you might also like to know that the birds love raw pastry, as long as it's not too sweet or salty.
Many raw vegetables are indigestible to birds, save for peas and sweetcorn.
Fat and suet is a big favourite for tits, great spotted woodpeckers, thrushes and wrens. But please avoid polyunsaturated fats - they don't give the birds the high levels of energy they require in winter.
Birds go bananas for mild, grated cheddar or other hard cheese, but please don’t offer then soft cheeses like brie and blue cheese. Mild grated cheese is a favourite with robins, dunnocks, blackbirds and song thrushes. It will also help wrens if you place it under hedgerows and wherever else in the garden you've noticed them feeding.
Baked potatoes (cold and opened up), roast and even leftover mashed potatoes with added real fats are all suitable food for birds. But, unlike you and me, chips are rarely eaten by birds.
Raw meat is indigestible to birds, but unsalted bacon, rinds and fat are an excellent source of protein. You can also feed the birds beef fat and marrow bones.
Chopped, cooked eggs contain many essential nutrients for birds. Even the crushed egg shells will provide calcium for nesting birds, plus the grit helps their digestion.
Plain, cooked pasta and rice is a popular choice when it comes to giving the birds a treat, as well as being a great source of carbohydrates too of course. Just make sure that they're not coated in sauce or cheese.
Please remember that some dogs and cats react badly to certain fruits so don't put them out in areas where these animals might get to them. Speaking of which, you can even provide wet or dry dog or cat food for birds but you will need to break up and soak dry foods though, to prevent birds choking.
Apples, pears and other fruit, including bruised and part rotten ones that have been cut up are very popular with all thrushes, tits and starlings.
Windfalls or bruised fruit that's seen better days is fine to put out or you can used soaked, dried fruit. Leave it on the bird table for our feathered friends to peck away at - fruit goes down a bomb with soft-billed birds such as blackbirds, thrushes, robins and wrens. They also like raisins, sultanas and currants. Soak them during spring and summer though, please.
Stale cereal and oats are fine, just as long as they don't have a high sugar or salt content and are not soaked in milk. Cooked oats can harden around a bird's beak, so raw oats are better.
All sorts of unsalted nuts would certainly be popular with birds but please chop them up as small as possible, especially during breeding season.
Finally, please clean your feeders and bird tables regularly!