robin collecting mealworms from feeder bowl

What Do Wild Birds Eat? Tips & Advice For UK Gardens

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Here in Britain, we are lucky since we have a wealth of wild birds inhabiting our towns and suburbs. When you’re enjoying the sun in your garden, you might notice that some species are happy to interact with you. As a general rule, most birds have learnt not to fear humans, which means that you can feed them. If you want to help boost the wildlife in your garden space, you might enjoy this fun and rewarding pastime. After all, there is simply nothing more relaxing than sitting around and watching birds feed, bathe and play with each other. So what do birds eat and how can we encourage them to our gardens.

Over the years, bird feeding and, indeed, watching (also called birding or twitching!) has become one of the nation’s favourite hobbies. When you start leaving food out you will notice that the environment of your garden space changes. If you are lucky, you might even have a few birds nesting in your garden this year. There is nothing more satisfying than watching the little chicks hatch and come to life.

If you don’t yet have a bird table or hanging feeder, you might be wondering where to start. You need to know what you can safely feed the birds before you do anything. So, what do birds eat besides worms? And, how can you feed them when they are in the wild? This blog piece should answer those questions and more.

How Should You Feed Wild Birds?

First, let’s talk a little about how you need to feed wild birds. It’s a good idea to educate yourself a little before you do anything else. There are many different ways you can start feeding garden birds.

One of the easiest methods people use is a bird table. That is to say that you get a permanent structure for your garden and place the food on it for the birds to come and get. These are cheaply available from garden centres and DIY stores. For something that will last look for models where the wood has been treated with a protective coating and is from a sustainable source. Some tables come with a roof, which may be helpful in colder or wetter seasons. It will help keep food such as nuts and seed fresh and dry. The table also needs to be reasonably high away from household pets such as cats. A good example is the RSPB gallery bird table above from Amazon it’s made from FSC certified timber and all profits help to save wildlife and birds.

You can also get bird feeders, which may be another solution for you. There are two main types of feeder. First of all, you can get a nut feeder, which is the right size for simple treats such as unsalted peanuts. Failing that, the most common type of feeder is a seed feeder. Wire and plastic are the two main materials you should look for when getting a feeder. The mesh metal constructed versions will ultimately last longer and withstand the variety of UK weathers. Look out for those from established brands such as Supa, Fed ‘N’ Watered and Natures Feast all readily available from the likes of Amazon.

Remember, you need to find something that suits your garden space. The bigger garden you have, the more you can fit in it. For those of you with a large outdoor area, you might want to get a table (or even two), but those with a small space may find that a feeder is best, perhaps mounted on a tree branch or the side of a pergula. Feeders come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, long poles, barrels, lanterns with all manner of pegs and feeding ports built in. Once you have a proper table or feeder in place, you can fill it with loads of delicious treats for wild birds.

When Do Birds Eat?

It is important that you understand when you should feed wild birds. During winter you may find that the birds in your garden need more food than at other times. When the weather drops, many creatures find it difficult to forage for food and water and can starve especially when there is snow or ice on the ground. Of course, you want to protect the birds in your garden, and so you should put food out for them twice a day if possible.

In the summer, you don’t need to offer as much food out as you do in the winter as there are plenty of insects, slugs and snails available. Despite this fact, you should change the food on a regular basis for hygiene reasons. It’s also worth remembering that the pesticides and insecticides many of us use in our gardens to control weeds and plant munchers like slugs affect the natural food supplies available to our avian friends. In fact if we didn’t use these there would probably be plenty of food available for birds naturally.

Common Types Of Bird & What To Feed Them

There are many common types of bird that you will find in your garden. What species you have will depend on the area of the UK in which you live. Let’s take a quick look at some of the most common species of bird and what you should feed them. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all birds are the same. Each species of bird has a different set of dietary needs, and it is vital that you understand them. You can influence the type of bird you get in your garden by the type of food you offer, so what do wild birds eat?

Close up of a woodpecker


So what do woodpeckers eat? Due to their physically active nature they need lots of fat and protein, which means that a snack like peanuts is perfect for them. Remember, you can’t get standard nuts for birds as the salt is bad for their digestive system. Instead, you need to get unsalted peanuts that are specifically for bird feeds. Fat balls which are available cheaply are also a good option. For these you will need a fat ball feeder.


Birds such as robins, love dried mealworms as a staple of their diet. If you want to attract these birds to your garden, you should get a pack of these tasty treats. Brands such as Supa, Extra Select and even Love Your Pet UK’s own brand sell in sizes from 500g upwards. You will also find that similar birds, such as thrushes, will eat these dried snacks too. You should know that worms are high in fat, which means that you shouldn’t put too many out at one time. Little and often is best and you will therefore feed more birds more regularly and encourage their return. To make mealworms even nicer for birds you can also rehydrate them by soaking them in a saucer of water before scattering them on the bird table.


As we have just mentioned, thrushes like to eat worms, but they also enjoy fruit, such as apples. If you want to make things easy for yourself, you can get dried fruit for your birds. That way, you will find that you don’t have any problems with rotting fruit in your garden.


Blackbirds are much bigger than the other birds on this list, and so they will tend to eat more food than the rest. They like dried fruit and sunflower seeds. Sometimes, you might even catch them eating a peanut or two.

Goldfinch on side of Nyjer seed feeder


Many people want to attract the elusive goldfinch to their garden, and you can see why. These creatures are stunning. If you wish to get this little bird in your outdoor space, you should invest in some nyjer seeds. These black seeds are quite a bit smaller than sunflower seeds and are high in calories and oil content. If you want to offer them, you will need to get a feeder with a tighter mesh. If you’re a keen gardener though you may wish to offer sunflower kernels instead as nyjer seeds that have fallen to the floor have been know to sprout and ruin small patches of grass.

Extra Advice & Help

Now that you know what you can feed birds, you should have all the information you need to get out there and do it. Remember, birds don’t fear us, but you should still be calm around them. Sudden movements could scare them and that is the last thing you want. Follow our basic advice and you will enjoy a garden filled with beautiful wild birds!

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