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How to select a bird food

Monday, 7th November 2016

There are a number of ways to select a bird food and one of the least helpful (but most obvious) ways is the retail price, but that’s only a small part of a much bigger story. Understanding the benefits of different bird diets could dramatically increase the number of bird species you attract, which means your bird feeding experience could be even more enjoyable. If that’s your goal, please read on…
Different birds prefer different foods and also have preferences to the way the seed is presented, for example: on a bird table, inside a tube-type seed feeder or sprinkled on the ground. I have written frequently about the benefits of feeding birds at different levels to attract different species and it’s a strategy that’s easy to implement.
How to select bird food

Let’s assume we have all of those in place, what do we do next? We instinctively thumb through the Haith’s catalogue or go online and select by price or by looks or by key ingredients such as sunflower hearts, which is perfectly fine to a point. Indeed there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using price as a guide and combining other features to fine-tune your selection such as Price + looks (does it look clean, healthy, nutritious?) + key familiar ingredients (such as sunflower hearts). This a reasonable equation to apply, but we could apply additional search queries and ultimately – if we get the selection right - we can present additional variety in the bird garden and potentially attract lots more birds. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?

Take the advent of winter, we should ideally be looking for a high-energy diet and price will - in this instance - be a good indicator as a low price could (but not necessarily) indicate fewer oil seeds as they are generally more expensive than cereal crops. The oil seeds are the high-calorie/high-oil providers. Some of the most common oilseeds are sunflowers, hemp, rapeseed, safflower, niger and linseed. It would be rare to see a high-energy bird diet that doesn’t contain one or more of these seeds. Cheap mixes often have a high percentage of cereal in them, which is perfectly fine if your garden is populated by sparrows, doves and pigeons. Our job today, though, is to broaden the range on offer in the garden – without necessarily increasing the cost of doing so - and then we might just flush out those harder to please Long-tailed Tits, Song Thrushes, Bullfinches and Nuthatches.

Black Sunflower Niger seed Linseed
The Huskfree Advance range is a good case in point as there are three mixes on offer; Advance with dried mealworms, Advance Original, and Advance with suet pellets. All of which could together or independently service your garden guests all-year-round. However, if you had to select just one – why not shop by feature and benefit? Start spring with Advance and dried mealworms to give a protein boost during the breeding season, swap to Advance Original in August, September and October to provide sound nutrition and zero waste at a time when there’s already enough sweeping and mowing in the garden; then swap to Advance with suet pellets when autumn unfolds into winter because it contains suet pellets and these provide super high-energy. There’s negligible difference in cost between the mealworm version of advance and the suet pellet version; however, selecting the most appropriate version could increase the total species of bird you feed this season, without (potentially) increasing your costs.

Softfoods cut down on waste and are generally husk free. The best place to feed them is on the bird table or ground feeder. These foods are different from regular seed mixes and again it’s easy to shop simply on price. Take our basic/cheapest, Songster Food it’s ideal for ground feeding stations and provides a good cereal-based meal for larger birds and the most delicate seeds like sunflower hearts are taken promptly by robins, chaffinches, dunnocks and thrushes. From just £1.55 per/kg (40kg) it’s easy to see why it’s popular with birders too. However, let’s see what buying based on benefits brings to the way we might shop the Softfood range…

Songster Food

The first thing to consider, if you’re already happy feeding Songster Food, is that you can easily introduce supplementary energy by adding suet pellets. These are available from as little as £2.99 for a 550g pouch. The Softfood range offers numerous food benefits, though, and I encourage you to explore them here. In a nutshell, they provide more protein for spring (Prosecto Insectivorous/Mealworm crumble) and added energy for the colder seasons in the shape of Fat Robin and Golden Chorus.

If you like the idea of feeding Softfoods but you don’t want to move away from your usual food, the good news is that many of the Softfoods are available as a suet block (see page 30 of autumn/winter catalogue). Armed with this knowledge, why not read up on the Softfood range and then introduce a Softfood suet block? The cheapest suet block we sell costs just £2.40. Why not study the Softfoods and see how much additional nutrition and variation can be accessed (for just 9p more in the case of the Softbill Insect Food block).

Feeder seedSpacer Native finch

Although we work hard to avoid species-specific bird food we do make exceptions. Take Native Finch, it’s a very similar price to Feeder Seed – so pick the cheapest between the two, right? That wouldn’t be a crime as they’re both high-energy, free-flowing seed mixes and the birds love every single seed and morsel in the mix. The key here is to shop based on what you know about your garden birds. Native finch includes niger seed and we know Goldfinches and Siskins worship the fine, slender seeds, which is why they’re in the mix.

There are few hard and fast rules when it comes to selecting the most appropriate bird foods, but the benefits and eventual enjoyment of considered experimentation are well worth the extra effort. I encourage you to ask bird food selection questions via the form below… or, click here to order our new autumn/winter catalogue.

Have fun experimenting. 

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