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What to feed wild birds in the autumn?

on September 21, 2020

What to feed wild birds in the autumn

As the leaves start to change colour, and the nights draw in, it’s important to remember our feathered garden friends. Autumn is a season of change, and it’s important to keep your feeders full to help wild birds as the weather changes. In autumn, wild bird natural food sources start to be depleted; less bugs and berries to be found! Wild birds that migrate will be building up fat reserves ready for a long flight ahead, and passing migratory wild birds may be looking for a quick refill. Ensure your feeders are full of the right food will help set up wild birds for winter and for travel, and it will have the added bonus of helping to imprint the location of a reliable food source for when they return in the spring.

autumn bird wild bird feeding guide

Best Autumn Wild Bird Foods

We find that offering a variety of food types, with a focus on high oil/high energy content provides resident and migrating birds the best nutrition possible. Here is our top 5 wild bird foods to feed in the autumn:

  • Peanuts are an evergreen wild bird classic, and a favourite of your garden visitors. Whether fed whole, as granules, or in a mix, peanuts are always a popular choice.
  • Suet! If you think of high energy wild bird food, chances are suet will be the first thing in your mind. Birds in autumn can’t get enough of suet, whether as suet balls, suet pellets, suet blocks or suet logs. Containing a high fat percentage, suet is great for helping birds build their fat reserves for a long, cold winter.
  • Black Sunflower Seeds contain a high level of oils which provide long lasting energy for wild birds. Black sunflower seeds are a firm favourite for sparrows and blackbirds.
  • Niger seeds are rich with high energy oil and a preferred food of migratory finches, such as goldfinches.
  • Mealworms are popular year around, but more so in the colder months as a valuable source of energy. These are a particular favourite of robins, so make sure to put some on a bird table!
wild bird suet feeder Izzy Fry

Wild Bird Care in the Autumn

It’s more important than ever to keep your wild bird feeds and bird baths clean to avoid spreading germs or disease. Hot soapy water and a stiff brush is the best way to keep your feeders clean and safe. Avoid using any chemicals that could harm wild birds. Remember to keep your bird bath topped up, especially as the temperature drops. If the bird bath freezes, simply break the ice and refill the bird bath. Never use antifreeze or similar. We’ve often seen the advice to put a small ball in the water to prevent freezing, however it’s never seemed to work for us! Perhaps you’ll have better luck than us.
Keep an eye on your bird feeders, and only refill your feeders when required. Avoid having lots of uneaten food around the base of your feeders as this may attract rodents. It will also help you judge supply and demand.
Mid-autumn, when the breeding season is over, is the perfect chance to clean out any nest boxes you may have. Once you’ve cleaned out any bedding, use boiling water to clean out any parasites. Wrens and other smaller birds may use the nest box to keep warm during winter months.

autumn robin feeding guide

Feeding Wild Bird Food Scraps in the Autumn

To help add variety to your garden feeders, you can food items from your kitchen. Here are a few items to feed, and a few to avoid :

  • DO FEED Fruit, as often popular, especially apples, pears and soft fruits. These can be sliced up or put out whole. Dried fruit is also suitable, but ensure it has been naturally dried as some can contain artificial preservatives which are poisonous.
  • DO FEED grated mild cheese as it’s a great fat source and particularly popular with wrens, robins and dunnocks.
  • DO FEED cooked rice, without any salt. This will be enjoyed by most species of bird. You can feed uncooked rice but this is often only eaten by larger birds such as doves.
  • DO FEED natural, unsweeted loose cereal. All types are ok to feed, but oats and granola will be preferred. Only feed a small amount at a time as it can turn to a sticky pulp in wet weather.
  • DON’T FEED Milk to wild birds, or hedgehogs.
  • DON’T FEED leftover fat from cooking, margarine or vegetable oil

What do the wild birds like to eat in your garden during the Autumn? Leave your tips and stories in the comments!

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