How to feed - and not to feed - our wild garden birds

Take a few tips from

Rose B O'Donoghue


Rose B O'Donoghue



This poor bird's claw became entangled in the nylon mesh around a food ball

During the winter, short days and long nights limit the time birds have to forage, while at the same time natural food becomes more scarce.

Our garden birds have increasingly come to depend on the food we provide as an essential supplement to what they can find for themselves at this challenging time of year. Frost and hard groudn makes it hard for them to forage.

Here are some useful tips from but please, don't put the netted fat balls out directly – remove the netting first and place in wire mesh feeders as birds tiny claw can become caught in the nylon mesh, as displayed here.

According to bird conservation organisations like Birdwatch Ireland and the RSPB, it’s a good idea to feed your garden birds throughout the year, but it’s especially important to do so over the coldest, darkest months of winter. Small birds need to pack in enough calories during the few hours of daylight to see them through the long winter night ahead. Having a convenient, high-energy food source in your garden can literally mean the difference between life and death for some of them.

It’s one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to attract wildlife into the garden, and is a fantastic way to encourage children to engage with nature. Birds add a welcome splash of colour to dreary winter days, and generally add interest to the garden on many different levels.

 Wire seed feeders are much safer but empty and clear old food from the bottom

Mesh nut feeders Irish (above)

Here are some tips on feeding your garden birds:

1. Place your feeders where you can see them (and away from prowling cats and predators)

2. Once you start feeding, don’t stop – consistency is vital to your regular visiting birds.

3 . Variety = diversity. Peanuts, seeds, fat balls, mealworms and suet balls.

4. Quality, not quantity.   Use a high quality bird seed mix

5. Don’t forget the water, clean water  

6. Clean the water dishes and food dispensers regularly and refresh with clean food and water. 

7. Little and often. It’s better to provide just enough food, and top up your feeders often, than to provide too much food.

See for more tips and information on your garden birds!