• Y.A.W.S Admin

Please remember our little-feathered friends out in the cold.

Do Something good for animals in 2019 - Read our bird feeding guide here and enter the magical world of birds.

Please remember our little-feathered friends out in the cold, adverse conditions.

Please help wild birds by putting out high energy foods and clean ice-free water during this tough time for birds they need your help, and a few peanuts may be life or death for that individual bird.

Midwinter is upon us, and we have had some adverse conditions across the country as reported in the news media every day, winter is a tough time for us humans, we don't perform too good in the adverse conditions of winter.

We struggle to keep moving in the snowy, sub-zero conditions, and we can't stay warm without heaters and multiple layers of clothing.

We often overlook what our animals have to endure also in the grip of winters cold, and they have the same fight to survive without our infrastructure and technology.

Birds have a tough time in winter most of their food and water is locked up in ice.

Birds have a tough time in winter most of their food and water is locked up in ice and is inaccessible, its the smallest birds that need to find food regularly to maintain its body condition and temperature, having to go without food for extended periods is life-threatening to the little garden birds.

Their size means a sudden drop in temperature they will need to increase the amount of food they can find just to stay warm, but the shorter days of winter means they haven't the necessary time to find enough food.

Follow our bird feeding guide this winter

This is where you can help save a life it doesn't matter if you have a country estate or a modest back to back you can help garden birds survive the coldest of weather.

Know what to feed

Put out a variety of foodstuffs, and this will ensure that any birds that have used up valuable energy to visit your feeding station can benefit from there visit.

Robins prefer insects, seeds, fruit

Different bird species are adapted to feed on various foodstuffs, finch types like seeds, larger garden species like blackbirds and thrushes like to feed from the floor and on fruits and insects.

Also think about where you site your feeding area, you don't want to turn your feeding station into a fast food place for predators.

Site a bird table near a wall or hedge and preferably the floor will be protected by dense foliage to avoid leaping cat attacks.

What do I put out to attract birds to my feeding station?

Black cap at a feeder
Safe food for birds.

Bird seed mixes

There are different mixes for feeders and for bird tables and ground feeding. The better mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize, sunflower seeds, and peanut granules.

Small seeds, such as millet, attract mostly house sparrows, dunnocks, finches, reed buntings and collared doves, while flaked maize is taken readily by blackbirds. Tits and greenfinches favour peanuts and sunflower seeds. Mixes that contain chunks or whole nuts are suitable for winter feeding only. Pinhead oatmeal is excellent for many birds. Wheat and barley grains are often included in seed mixtures, but they are really only suitable for pigeons, doves and pheasants, which feed on the ground and rapidly increase in numbers, frequently deterring the smaller species.

Avoid seed mixtures that have split peas, beans, dried rice or lentils as again only the large species can eat them dry. These are added to some cheaper seed mixes to bulk them up. Any mixture containing green or pink lumps should also be avoided as these are dog biscuit, which can only be eaten when soaked.

Other bird seeds and nuts

Black sunflower seeds

These are an excellent year-round food, and in many areas are even more popular than peanuts. The oil content is higher in black than striped ones, and so they are much better. Sunflower hearts (the husked kernels) are a popular no-mess food.

Chaffinch Surrounded by different seeds

Nyjer seeds 

These are small and black with a high oil content. They need a special type of seed feeder, and are particular favourites with goldfinches and siskins.

These are rich in fat and are popular with tits, greenfinches, house sparrows, nuthatches, great spotted woodpeckers and siskins.


Crushed or grated nuts attract robins, dunnocks and even wrens. Nuthatches and coal tits may hoard peanuts. Salted or dry roasted peanuts should not be used.

Peanuts can be high in a natural toxin, which can kill birds, so buy from a reputable source.

Bird cake and food bars

Fat balls and other fat-based food bars are excellent winter food.

If they are sold in nylon mesh bags, always remove the bag before putting the fat ball out – the soft mesh can trap and injure birds.

You can make your own bird cake by:

Pouring melted fat (suet or lard) onto a mixture of ingredients such as seeds, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal, cheese and cake.Use about one-third fat to two-thirds mixture. Stir well in a bowl and allow it to set in a container of your choice.An empty coconut shell, plastic cup or tit bell makes an ideal bird cake ‘feeder’.Alternatively, you can turn it out onto your bird table when solid.

Live foods and other insect foods

Mealworms are relished by robins and blue tits, and may attract other insect-eating birds such as pied wagtails.

Mealworms are a natural food and can be used to feed birds throughout the year. It can become quite expensive to constantly buy mealworms, and many people want to grow their own. You can culture your own mealworms.

If you cannot face this performance, buy your mealworms from the professionals, consoling yourself with the thought that successful mealworm breeding is even more difficult than it sounds.

It is very important that any mealworms fed to birds are fresh. Any dead or discoloured ones must not be used as they can cause problems such as salmonella poisoning.

Waxworms are excellent, but expensive. Proprietary foods for insect-eating birds, such as ant pupae and insectivorous and softbill food are available from bird food suppliers and pet shops. Insect food appropriately offered can attract treecreepers and wrens.

Fats, margarine and oils

Cooking fat

Fat from cooking is bad for birds. The problem with cooked fat from roasting tins and dishes is that the meat juices have blended with the fat and when allowed to set, this consistency makes it prone to smearing, not good for birds' feathers. It is a breeding ground for bacteria, so potentially bad for birds' health. Salt levels depend on what meat is used and if any salt is added during cooking.

Lard and beef suet on their own are fine as they re-solidify after warming and as they are pure fat, it is not as suitable for bacteria to breed on. 

Polyunsaturated margarine or vegetable oils

These are unsuitable for birds. Unlike humans, birds need high levels of saturated fat, such as raw suet and lard. They need the high energy content to keep warm in the worst of the winter weather, since their body reserves are quickly used up, particularly on cold winter nights. The soft fats can easily be smeared onto the feathers, destroying the waterproofing and insulating qualities

©2017 by Yorkshire Animal Welfare Society.