Bird Feeding Guide

Feeding the birds is a popular activity – around half of all households in the UK do it. But what food should you be putting out for which birds? When should you do it? Here is our quick guide to bird foods.



Sunflower Hearts

Species: Greenfinch, blue tit, great tit, coal tit, marsh tit, goldfinch, and more.

Presentation: Best presented in a seed feeder or a sunflower heart mesh feeder with small mesh gauge. Can be used on the bird table and ground feeder too.

When: Especially popular in winter and early spring.

Feeder: Colour Cup Feeders, Bempton hanging bird table



Whole Shelled Peanuts

Species: Blue tit, great tit, coal tit, long tailed tit, marsh tit, great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch. Also badger, fox and hedgehog.

Presentation: Put whole peanuts in a good quality metal mesh feeder with a maximum port size of 6mm. This ensures only small particles are taken, particularly important during the breeding season preventing naïve adults from forcing whole peanuts into their chick’s throats. Do not use nylon nets as these can tangle in the birds’ feet. Scatter a few peanuts for our ground feeding friends.

When: Keep the feeder topped up year round.

Feeder: Peanut Bird Feeder



Niger Seed

Species: Goldfinch, siskin and redpoll.

Presentation: Niger is the closest commercially available food to thistle or alder seed. The species that prefer tiny seeds of this nature are the fine billed finches. Offer in a purpose built niger seed feeder (sometimes called a thistle feeder). All the fine billed finches feed in flocks so the bigger the feeder, the bigger the flock of birds that can access it.

When: Offer year round.



Mealworm (live or dried)

Species: Robin, blackbird and song thrush.

Presentation: A handful of dried mealworms may be added to any mix on the bird table or ground feeder. Try to keep them dry.

Live mealworms are best offered in a shallow dish with very small drainage holes. Robins in particular may learn to take live mealworms from the hand.

When: Feed dried mealworms year round. The same for live, though care must be taken in freezing conditions to offer small volumes regularly. In spring and summer they offer an important supplement to nestlings and fledglings.

Feeder: Wildlife Whisperer Ground Feeder




Suet balls, pellets and blocks

Species: A favourite for long tailed tits, robins, other members of the tit family and great spotted woodpecker.

Presentation: Suet balls should be presented in purpose built tube cages. Blocks usually have purpose built cage feeders to suit their size and shape. Pellets may be added to the bird table and ground feeder, along with seed mix.

When: Offer all year round, though particularly important in winter when birds burn many calories simply keeping warm.




Seed Mix


Look for high quality content. Avoid large volumes of wheat or other course grain that acts as a low cost filler in some cheap bird foods. This will only feed pigeons and rats once it has been discarded and thrown to the ground by more discerning feeders.

Species: Depending on the quality of the mix, a very broad species selection including tit family, robin, finches, nuthatch etc.

Presentation: A seed feeder or on the bird table.

When: Year round, though volume consumed will increase in late summer and through winter / early spring.

Feeder: Bird Seed Feeder , Bird Food



Ground Feeder Mix

Species: Song thrush, blackbird, robin, wren, dunnock, chaffinch, house sparrow and nuthatch.

Presentation: Present a good quality ground feeder or softbill mix on the bird table or on a ground feeder tray.

When: Year round, though volumes consumed will be higher in late summer, through the winter and early spring.

Feeder: Archway ground feeder




Household Foods – Oats, grated cheese, raisins and apples.

Species: A general mix of softbill birds including blackbird, song thrush, robin and dunnock.

Presentation: All these foods can be presented on the bird table or a ground feeding tray.

When: Year round, though volumes consumed will be higher in late summer, winter and early spring.

Feeder: Bempton Hanging Bird Table

We have a great selection of bird feeders available from the Wildlife Shop.


View our guide to garden birds – which ones can you spot on our Bird Feeder Cam?

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