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What to feed garden birds

Paul Stancliffe

Find out what the best food to feed garden birds is with this advice from the British Trust for Ornithology.

Two male greenfinches feeding in the garden
Find out the best food to feed garden birds


Peanuts are high in the oils and proteins needed by birds and have been used for many years. Always buy good quality peanuts from a reputable source and avoid those that show any signs of mould. Peanuts are best supplied behind mesh, so that a bird cannot take a whole peanut away.

Birds: tits, nuthatches, woodpeckers, finches and sparrows.

Bird seed mixes

Seed mixes come in a vast range, differing in content and quality. Cheap mixes often have a high proportion of cereal and attract pigeons. Better quality mixes are lower in cereal content and so are particularly suitable for finches and buntings.

Birds: finches, buntings, pigeons and doves.

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Black sunflower seeds

Black sunflower seed was introduced in the early 1990s and revolutionised bird feeding by providing a high-energy food in a readily accessible form.

Birds: they are a favourite of Greenfinches and tits.

Find out what to plant to attract birds into your garden

Sunflower hearts

Sunflower hearts are more expensive than the black sunflower seeds but they have two advantages. First, the birds can feed more quickly because they do not have to remove the husk. Second, the lack of husk means that there are no unsightly piles of husks left behind on the ground after the birds have fed.

Birds: same as above.

Nyjer seeds

Nyjer seed is a relatively new introduction to the bird feeding market and it is one that has found favour with Goldfinches, which seem to like the small size of these seeds. Because they are so small, nyjer seeds need to be supplied in a specially adapted feeder.

Birds: Goldfinches and birds with delicate bills.

Fat balls

Fat balls and fat cakes can be supplied in special feeders or put directly onto a bird table.

Birds: starlings, thrushes, tits and woodpeckers.

Try our easy recipe for fat balls to feed garden birds

More information

FInd out more information on looking after garden birds from British Trust for Ornithology,

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.