How to attract birds to your garden

Here are our top tips on how to feed and attract birds this #BigGardenBirdwatch. You don't even need a garden – just a feeder attached to a window.

What do birds eat?

There are lots of different bird foods available, including mixes for bird feeders and bird tables, as well as for ground feeding:

  • Blackbirds mostly feed on the ground and will eat anything – from fatty nibbles to mealworms
  • Blue tits and great tits use a feeder, eating seeds as well as suet and peanuts
  • Finches, including chaffinches and greenfinches, use both a feeder and a bird table, and they love sunflower hearts
  • Look for good quality bird food – those that don’t include ‘fillers’ such as dried peas and beans that birds rarely eat. You’ll find some great mixes in our shop
  • You can put out leftovers such as some bread, fruit cake, dried fruit, unsalted nuts, or fruit such as apples and pears. Don’t use anything mouldy or salty though, and if you have a dog don’t put out dried fruit – vine fruits such as raisins can be toxic to them.
RSPB bird feeding kit

Bumper bird food gift box

This large box is crammed full of fantastic seeds, suet and nibbles

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Safe food for birds

'What do birds eat?' is one of the most frequently asked questions here at the RSPB. Here's a list of what you can - and can't - feed your birds.

Where to put bird feeders and tables

You can put your bird feeder in all sorts of places, but aim for somewhere:

  • Quiet – where birds won't be disturbed
  • Safe – not too close to bushes where cats could hide in wait, but close enough to cover that birds can easily dart to and from
  • Sheltered from harsh winds.

Wherever you place your feeder, make sure you can see it when you’re indoors so you can get the most pleasure from it!

Bear in mind, it can take a little bit of time for the birds to get used to a new feeder, so don’t be disappointed if not many birds visit at first.  You might also consider including a feeder tray where possible to both save on wasted food, and allow more feathered friends a place to perch.

Premium feeder station

Premium easy-clean feeding station with new, improved design for 2020

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Remember the water

Birds like a drink too. You don't even need a traditional bird bath:

  • Try a dinner plate or breakfast bowl – anything shallow that holds water will do
  • Large plant pot trays work well 
  • Add a shallow or sloping area to a pond
  • Use a water feature or fountain.

And remember to:

  • Keep it clean
  • Put out fresh water every day
  • Pour warm water onto any ice that forms in the winter, birds need water all year round.

Anywhere bird bath

Hang from a pole or tree or simply rest on a table or the ground

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Keep it clean

It’s very important to keep bird feeders clean to stop a build-up of bacteria that can spread diseases and infections among garden birds.

  • Wear gloves and use warm soapy water
  • Scrub feeders inside and out using a strong, long bristled brush. Do this in a bucket, not in your kitchen sink 
  • Use a mild, non-toxic disinfectant
  • Make sure the feeder is thoroughly dry before refilling it with food
Bird feeders

Other ways to help birds

From food and bird tables to bird baths and even nestboxes - there are loads of ways you can attract birds to your patch and give them a helping hand. 

Birds to look out for

Check out some of the most commonly sighted birds, with tips on telling them apart!