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Feed the birds!

We are very lucky on the Estate to have lots of native wild birds. Some of them are regular visitors to the garden at Escot House.

These are the usual suspects in an English garden, including blackbirds, finches, tits, sparrows, doves and occasional woodpeckers, peacocks, pheasants and ducks! We’ve been putting out food for the wild birds for many years, either low hanging in the trees or on a regular birdfeeder. Their antics are enjoyed by resident cats Toushi and Tucker, who fortunately have little interest in doing more than watching.

There are different schools of thought about feeding birds, but we’re with those who think that feeding wild birds the right way can help maintain their numbers and boost biodiversity.

So what feed is good to entice birds to your garden and make sure they thrive?

Providing a combination of different bird feed will encourage a wider variety of birds into your garden. Throughout the year you can put out sunflower seeds/hearts, niger seed, mealworms (a good source of protein) and suet based products like fat balls.

Peanuts are good energy boosters but are not advisable when there are fledglings. Peanuts are difficult for young birds to digest, and even broken up peanuts can potentially cause choking. So save peanuts for the winter months only.

Fat balls are a good source of food for wild birds but avoid those in nets as birds have been known to get stuck in them. Traditionally they’ve come in large plastic tubs, but you can get more environmental friendly packaging now. Or buy one large tub and reuse it!

There are certain leftovers from the kitchen that are good for birds; cooked rice and mashed potatoes are on the list! However, don’t offer them bread, avocado or any fruit seeds.

Which feeder?

Bird tables are great for birds like robins and starlings – but you’ll also get greedy pigeons and jackdaws. Hanging feeders are ideal for finches, sparrows and tits. The suet feeders attract woodpeckers, jays and nuthatches.  

Don’t forget water

As important as bird feed is water. In the hotter and colder months this can be scarce – or frozen! So make sure your birds have access to clean water. Speaking of clean, you should clean birdbaths and feeders regularly, to help keep birds healthy and avoid spreading diseases. You can use a weak (5%) disinfectant solution, rinse thoroughly after you’ve cleaned.

Winter feed

Winter is usually the hardest season for birds. With less daylight there’s less time for foraging. Frosts can catch them unawares, especially when it’s been mild. Freezing rain is a danger, too. This is when birds need high energy, high calorie food. Try to invest in good quality feed, as this will be most beneficial.

These are the staples you should stock up on for winter. Most garden centres have plenty of choice, and if you can buy in bulk you’ll get a better deal.

  • Sunflower hearts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Niger seeds
  • Seed mixes
  • Peanuts
  • Suet

We really do love watching the birds that visit the Escot garden. It’s a lovely form of relaxation and a great way to while away a little time, sitting by the window with a warming cuppa.


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