Feeding wild birds and other wildlife, especially during the winter months is a national pastime that appeals to all age groups and to people from all walks of life. Once you have established yourself as a regular source of food you will find that many kinds of beautiful birds and even rare shy mammals start to arrive in your garden.

So how which is the best way to feed the wildlife that visits your garden and what food is best to give them? During the colder winter weather wild birds need high energy, high fat food to survive, therefore special wild bird food such as suet balls, nuts and seeds is ideal and easy to buy. In addition peanuts in a wire mesh feeder are good at attracting blue tits, great tits and long tailed tits as well nut hatches and even spotted woodpeckers.

Specialist thistle feeders with smaller ports that allow the fine seed through, especially Niger seed, is very popular with Goldfinches and by putting out a thistle feeder you are sure to attract these delightful birds into your garden all year round.

Always try to locate bird tables or bird feeding stations near natural cover since many birds prefer not to be exposed, putting a bird feeding station by a window will at first only attract more gregarious birds such as sparrows so if you are using a window based feeder it may take longer for the wild birds to find and trust the new source of food.

Do bear in mind though that if you feed the birds too close to a tree or shrub, other animals such as squirrels and house cats may find it all too easy to hide and gain access to the feeders and the birds themselves! Also it can take some weeks for birds to discover and start using your bird table, particularly if it is the first one in an area or if it is being established in spring when natural sources of food are plentiful; so don’t completely fill up any kind of feeder at first, otherwise any uneaten food will get old and spoil if it is left.

A source of fresh water should also be made available for the birds to drink and wash in, preferably a shallow container such as a birdbath which should be cleaned out regularly. There are so many attractive birdbaths to choose from these days that it is not difficult to find something suitable for your garden.

Birds are messy and untidy eaters so if the bird table is situated on a lawn next to flower borders be aware that whole cereals and unshelled sunflower seeds will eventually germinate beneath the table and food scattered on the ground beneath may also attract rats and mice. All this means that you must keep your bird feeding area clean. Try to adjust the amount of food given to the amount being eaten and do not overfeed, as spilled food will accumulate and could cause health problems.

You can stop or slow down feeding wild birds, once winter is over and natural sources of food are more abundant, by gradually stopping refilling your feeding stations. However a lot of bird lovers prefer not to stop completely because they enjoy the pleasure of continuing to watch the birds they have come to know throughout the colder harsher seasons.

Other pleasures can be derived from visiting wildlife in your garden by the use of nesting boxes, bird baths, bat boxes, hedgehog houses, bumble nest boxes and even camera nest boxes, which enable you to see what is going on during the nesting season.