How to attract more birds to your garden

Robin perched on a snowy branch (photo Deborah Morris/WTPL)
Attract birds like robins to your garden (Photo: Deborah Morris/WTPL)

Yellow-breasted blue tits, noisy little house sparrows, and starlings with their satiny, black feathers shot through with purple and green… wild birds are fascinating when you see them close up. And now the weather’s getting colder, putting out some food will help them survive the winter months as well as giving you a chance to get a better look.

Follow our tips for how to attract more birds to your garden and your garden will soon be a popular refuelling stop.

What to feed garden birds: attract birds with food they love

Solid fats

Solid facts such as suet and lard, but not fat that has been used for cooking meat as this is too greasy.

Seed mix

You can buy special seed mixes for birds at lots of garden centres, pet shops and supermarkets. Avoid mixes that have split peas, beans, dried rice, lentils, or wheat and barley grains. Only larger birds, such as pigeons, can eat these and if you attract too many it will scare the little birds away.


Leftovers such as pastry, uncooked porridge oats, cooked rice, crushed biscuits soaked in water, and over-ripe fruit.

What not to feed garden birds

There are some foods you should definitely avoid:

  • Milk makes birds sick, although they can eat mild types of cheese.
  • Bread won’t hurt them, but it doesn’t have much nutritional value.
  • Desiccated (dried) coconut swells in their stomachs and can kill them.
  • Porridge or cooked oats is too sticky and can glue a small bird’s beak together.
  • Mouldy or stale food can breed bacteria that’s harmful to birds. You should remember to clear old food out of bird feeders, and clean them regularly as birds often poo on them!  If there’s food left behind every day, you’re putting out too much.
  • Greasy fats, such as margarine or butter, can get on their feathers and ruin their natural waterproofing.

Bird feed fat ball recipe

Rustle up your own tasty bird treat

You will need:

  • Seed mix
  • Raisins
  • Unsalted crushed peanuts
  • Suet or lard
  • A mixing bowl

Cut the suet or lard into small pieces and put it in the bowl. Add the other ingredients and mix it into a squidgy lump. Roll it into little balls and put them in the fridge for an hour to set.

Serving up your bird food

You can use a bird table, a hanging bird feeder, or just put food on the ground. Why not make this brilliant bird feeder yourself (age 3-5)?

Put the food in open areas, not next to bushes where cats and predator birds can hide. If you have a cat, fit a bell to its collar.

Push some little balls of fat and seeds into holes in wooden gate posts and fences for the birds to peck out.

Some bought bird food comes in mesh bags. Don’t put the food out in the bags as birds can get tangled up in the mesh.

Don’t forget to give your birds something to drink

Don’t forget to put out some fresh water in a bowl too. In very cold weather, you can stop it freezing by putting a tennis or ping pong ball in the bowl.

Remember – don’t put too much food out. If there’s some left the next day, reduce the amount. Leftover food can attract rats, and it can go mouldy and make the birds poorly.

Check out our Activities section for bird-related things to do, such as our iDial to help you identify the birds visiting your garden (age 6+), or our bird colouring page (age 0-2).

Did you make a bird feeder?

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