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Top Tips

A few useful tips and advice on a whole range of bird related topics - a sort of FAQ.

Look for your question in the list and click on the link.

What is the best seed mix?

Will the seeds grow?

General rules about feeding certain birds

Hygiene; is it important?

Wheat is just a cheap filler, isn't it?

Attracting different birds

Peanut myths

Feeding fat balls

Feeding meal worms

Storage and shelf life of seeds

Siting of a bird table and feeders

Putting up nest boxes

What is Pro-tec?

As a general rule different seeds will attract different birds

 

For instance peanut granules are enjoyed by long-tailed tits, many customers have found these delightful birds start visiting in the autumn and winter. The smaller cereal seeds such as millet and canary seed or kibbled wheat will attract more finches and sparrows while oily seeds such as the sunflower will be best for the tit family. The naked oat is liked by both robin and blackbird this may be due to the fact it is high in energy (calories) and is very palatable. If you are just feeding for specific birds then a single seed to suit those birds is fine but if you want to attract a wider range then go for at least 2 seeds or one of our mixes. The premium mix is the best for all sorts of garden birds while the Mills table will give you a good variety at an affordable price. Of course this is not a guarantee that all sorts of birds will flock to your garden, they have to be around in the first place but it is definitely worth a go.

Will the seeds grow?

Yes some of them will, as a rule the "processed" seeds will not germinate, seeds like sunflower hearts and kibbled wheat. These have been through some kind of process that generally destroys the seeds ability to grow. For instance our wheat is put through a roller to crack it and expose the wheat germ inside, sunflower hearts have had their shell taken off which also stops them growing.

Birds are a highly adapted animal to take advantage of different climates, feeding habits and diets.

 Take the lawn dwellers for instance, the blackbird (which is a thrush) and the song thrush. The blackbird runs along the grass cocking it's head to listen for the tell tale sounds of a worm travelling through it's hole, where the song thrush browses through the bottoms of bushes and walls looking for their favourite food ,the snail. (A collection of empty snail shells on a flat stone is a real give away to their presence). Robins too have feeding habits like the blackbird and feeding these birds in your garden will require an insect food. They are both mainly ground feeders too so this means a seed mix such as our super mix fed on the ground or bird table is best. Finches on the other hand, sparrows, greenfinch and chaffinch have a heavy strong bill that has adapted for cracking seed husks, they feed on black sunflower, wheat, canary and millet seeds. Some finches have specialised into eating certain seeds such as the goldfinch which eats thistle and teasel seed a much smaller husked seed. This bird adores niger seed and if you have goldfinches around using niger to attract them works very well. The tit family are a very active acrobatic bird and a high energy food is their favourite, peanuts, sunflower hearts and suet all work well. They too prefer insect food eating anything from tiny spiders to caterpillars, feeding live mealworms will always attract them too.

It must always be remembered that you are putting food out when feeding garden birds

and so of course the bird table or feeder can be compared to your own dinner plates. Would you continue to use a plate for months on end without washing them up? There are brushes for tube feeders and scrapers for tables with disinfecting sprays to kill all the bugs that can linger on cleaned feeders. Because so many birds use your garden at the same time a disease can be introduced and quickly build up so good hygiene will stop any suffering or deaths. All your feeding equipment should be thoroughly cleaned at least every 6 weeks to prevent any problems.

Relatively speaking, yes it is.

However when processed in the correct way it is in fact a cereal high in energy. We eat it all the time, bread, cakes, biscuits etc and we all know that eating this type of food can easily pile on the pounds because of it's high calorific value. So it stands to reason that it will be good for the birds too. It's problem is that it is surrounded by a fibrous husk and this is not digested very easily by most birds, this is why we put all our wheat through a roller mill to lightly crack it and so expose the easily digested wheat germ (floury insides), this does tend to make mixes such as the dove and game mix a little dusty but it's feed value is far more nutritious than leaving the wheat whole. Birds like pheasant and pigeon can cope with whole grains as they have a large and more advanced crop than smaller birds, these crops are used to grind food before being digested and this is probably what has given grains the bad reputation.

Buy quality fresh bird seeds

This cannot be emphasised enough, cheap bird seed will be old, of poor quality and of low nutritional value. Yes it may suit your pocket but it won't do your birds any favours. Another of the of the main methods is of course using different seeds and mixes, this I have covered under "feeding certain birds". However because of the different ways in which birds feed another great way to get a range of species is to use a range of feeders. Hanging tube type feeders with seed ports will attract seed eating birds and putting a tray underneath them will get yet more birds to feed from them. A peanut feeder will attract tits and woodpeckers (if you are near a wood) and a bird table can be very successful in attracting ground feeders and also getting large numbers of birds into your garden. Of course getting your garden to attract them in the first place will benefit you and the birds too, planting insect loving plants and leaving a few wild places around will help feed them keep them and reduce the amount you need to feed them with our seeds! Water in the garden is very important too, many birds will visit a garden with a pond even if no food is put out for them.

We get many customers refusing to buy whole peanuts during the breeding season and summer.

The reason is that parent birds can feed a peanut to their chicks and so causing them to choke. I have no doubt that this can happen but it is very rare. Nearly all birds and certainly all of the tit family will feed only insect food to their young, in fact they time the hatching of their broods to the optimal leaf stage of the surrounding trees when most insects are active. It is only when the weather is particularly dire or there is a failure of the insect population that they may resort to feeding seeds. It is very important to keep up the feeding of peanuts and/or seeds in this period as the adult birds can swiftly top up their own energy levels while working from dawn to dusk feeding their young. By putting peanuts in a grid type peanut feeder will stop whole nuts being taken out as the bird needs to peck out bits of them only. Another tip to reduce the risk is to site either the feeders or the nest boxes away from each other if possible.

Suet is a very high energy food,

basically made from beef fat and mixed with all types of ingredients it will supply an energy boost to all birds that eat it. A lot of these balls will come inside a plastic net, this is used for hanging the fat ball from a hook or such like. If you do not need to hang these fat balls then please TAKE THEM OUT, they are not necessary and can cause the birds to get trapped. We have a tub of 50 fat balls with these nets removed, which can be very time consuming.

Mealworms are a very nutritious and high energy food

and as they are an insect just about all the garden birds will take advantage of them in the breeding season. The meal worm is a lava of the meal worm beetle and can be kept for up to two months if stored correctly before turning to a chrysalis and eventually a beetle. Store them in a cool place, less than 6 degrees, with a few strips of potato or apple peelings for moisture they will also need a small handful of breakfast cereal for food.

Robins especially are very fond of them and many people will be able to train a robin to come to their hand by feeding meal worms. It's best to feed them as a treat as all sorts of birds will hoover them up and could get very expensive. A good alternative to live meal worms are the dried ones, however if you are feeding these please make sure they are put in a saucer of water to soak as insects taken to the nest are the only source of water a chick will get.

 

As discussed earlier, bird food is just that, a food

and will eventually suffer from the same degradations that any food will. Because of this we would strongly suggest that you buy only quantities that you know will be fed over a 60 day period. We do not like to use chemicals to preserve our seeds as we think they detract from the quality, others may use a gas every so often for preserving their seeds and this seed may last a lot longer. Other ways of extending it's shelf life would be to store in a cool place and to make sure that the temperature range does not fluctuate too much, a good old fashioned pantry or brick built garage would be ideal. Of course birds aren't the only ones that enjoy seed and you may get problems with vermin. By using a storage bin this can easily be overcome.

Where do I feed my birds?

Feeding birds can be a bit of an art but once you have it right the rewards are great. Much of it is through trial and error, moving feeders and tables, making sure they feel safe in their stay at the feeding station. Cats and sparrowhawks can be the biggest problem for garden birds and making sure a table or hanging feeder is within a few feet of dense cover can discourage the sparrowhawk. Conversely moving a ground tray away from bushes will put cats off as they require a certain run up for the pounce! Don't be afraid to move your feeding area around the garden, leaving 2 weeks between moves to let them settle in, once you have it right you will soon know.

Once you have a good number of birds coming to your garden

it would be good to get them to breed and stay around for the rest of the year. Because we are all so tidy with our gardens nowadays we have removed many of the nesting sites that these birds require. Nest boxes are a very useful substitute for this as you can dictate, to some degree, where you want your birds to nest. In the main all boxes should be sited out of the prevailing weather and not in full sun, usually NW round to NE. 

Our ground feeding birds like blackbird and robin will use the open-fronted type nest box, whereas the tits need a hole nest box, the blue, coal and marsh tit require the 26mm hole and the great tit need the 32mm hole. Sparrows will use a colony nest box and house martins an under the eave type box. There are all sorts of specialist boxes to suit most birds and if you need some guidance on this please call us.

What is Pro-tec?

Pro-tec health aid is a unique blend of totally natural products, to help protect and promote the welfare of wild birds.

Our Softbill Supreme wild bird mixture contains Pro-tec which can deliver great benefits to all birds:

  • Improved health and welfare
  • An Aflotoxin inactivating agent
  • Helps protect against disease organisms
  • Improved digestion of food
  • Improved energy availability
  • Better feather development
  • Improved energy conservation
  • Aids fertility and reproduction
  • More ‘robust’ young and improved survival rate
  • A stronger immune response
  • Improved circulatory system
  • Reduction of harmful gut bacteria

Pro-tec health Aid is a unique and synergistic blend of an organic, natural live yeast, together with mineral enriched yeasts, and an aflotoxin inactivating agent.

Added to this is a natural digestive aid called Inulin derived from purpose grown Chicory roots.

Developed by the Bamford family all of these proven ‘natural additions’ to our diets, will promote the digestive health, welfare and well-being of any birds that regularly consume them.

By offering your wild birds feeds containing Pro-tec on a daily basis you can really improve their chances of surviving harsh weather and chronic disease. You will also contribute to their ability to more successfully reproduce in Spring!

If you have a specific question that cannot be answered here then please mail me at support@soarmillseeds.co.uk and I will endeavour to get you an answer.