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Exploring the Variety of Bird Feed for Your Garden Visitors

blue tit fat balls

The UK boasts a significant interest in bird feeding, with spending reaching up to £300 million annually on various bird feeding products. Yet, a surprising number of enthusiasts aren’t fully aware that different birds have specific dietary needs and that a range of bird feeds caters to these diverse requirements.

Beginners in bird watching or those wanting to attract more wildlife to their gardens should understand the significance of offering a variety of bird feed options. Birds have specific food preferences, so providing a diverse selection of seeds and feeds is essential to encourage frequent visits.

Let’s explore the range of bird feed choices that are accessible and the benefits they offer:

Sunflower Seeds and Hearts

Sunflower seeds are highly favoured by many birds due to their high fat and fibre contents. There are various types available, such as:

  • Black sunflower seeds, which are oil-rich and have higher calorie content, are ideal for both small and larger birds due to their thinner shells.
  • Sunflower hearts, or kernels, are de-shelled seeds that are less messy.
  • Sunflower chips, smaller pieces that are particularly suitable for young birds.
  • Striped sunflower seeds are protein-packed and best suited for larger birds because of their thicker shells and bigger size.

Birds, including sparrows, nuthatches, and blue tits, exhibit a preference for these seeds, showcasing their diverse nature. These seeds can be offered in any type of feeder, although the shelled ones may lead to more mess.


A staple for many garden birds, peanuts are rich in fats and proteins, making them a perfect snack, especially during the colder months. It’s essential to select aflatoxin-tested peanuts to ensure they are safe for birds. Varieties include whole peanuts for mature birds, peanut splits for all sizes, and peanut granules, which are ideal for smaller birds and fledglings. These should be offered in a mesh feeder to prevent choking hazards for young birds.

Niger Seeds

Also known as Nyjer, these small, black seeds are a delicacy for small garden birds like goldfinches. They should be fed using a fine-meshed feeder or specialty Niger seed feeders to prevent wastage.


Suet is versatile and can be served in balls, pellets, rolls, or even within coconut shells, often mixed with seeds, insects, or berries for added nutrition. It’s a high-energy feed, particularly beneficial during autumn and winter. Birds of all sizes, including woodpeckers and robins, enjoy suet, which can be placed in feeding stations or hung around the garden.


Mealworms, available dried or live, offer birds a nutritious blend of fibre, fats, and protein. They are a hit with soft-billed birds like sparrows and starlings. During the breeding season, it’s advisable to soak dried mealworms before serving to make them easier for chicks to consume.

Mixed Seeds

Pre-mixed seeds can provide a balanced diet without the hassle of mixing your own. These mixes can cater to different seasons and include options like ‘no grow’ and ‘no mess’ to keep gardens tidy.


Millet is packed with proteins, calcium, iron, and Vitamin B, making it a less fatty, but still nutritious, option that aids in digestion. Millet is particularly beloved by sparrows and finches and can be combined with other seeds in feeders.

Seasonal Feeding Tips

In winter, foods should be easily accessible and nutrient-rich to conserve birds’ energy. Suet, sunflower hearts, and crushed seeds are ideal as they require no ‘preparation’ by the birds.

During spring and summer, despite more natural food sources being available, continued feeding is important. Birds still benefit from a reliable food source, especially when rearing young. Offer a variety of seeds, peanuts, mealworms, and fresh fruit, and avoid suet in hot weather to prevent spoilage. Regularly clean and refill bird baths and water sources.

Understanding the dietary preferences of wild birds and providing suitable feeds can ensure a bustling bird haven year-round.

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