If you’re planning on taking part in the #BigGardenBirdwatch, or even if you’re not, having a great dining offer on the table (or in the feeder) will attract a variety of birds to your green space. However, with a swathe of bird foods on the market, how do you know you have made the right choice for your garden visitors? Most suppliers will advise you if their product is suitable for hanging feeders or bird tables, but there’s a little more science behind it than just that.

During winter, birds require high energy foods to maintain their fat reserves and survive those cold days and frosty nights. Suet fat balls are tightly packed with the energy that birds need. Made from a solidified mix of pure fat mixed with seeds and often mealworms they are a popular treat for wrens, thrushes, woodpeckers and starlings. But don’t just save them for winter as suet is an excellent all year-round food.

Seed mixes are also suitable in all seasons. Getting the right product on the bird table and in the feeders will ensure your visitors remain healthy, not only in winter but in the all-important breeding season that follows. The better mixtures contain plenty of flaked maize (loved by blackbirds), sunflower seeds (a firm favourite with tits and finches) and a fat source such as rapeseed oil. You can be assured that the RSPB range of bird food contains the finest quality ingredients and our tailor-made recipes mean there’s nothing your favourite birds can’t eat. Watch out for cheaper brands which may use wheat and barely grains, these are really only suitable for pigeons and doves. Attracting these larger species to your bird café may deter smaller birds such as sparrows and finches. Try to avoid seed mixtures that have split peas, beans, lentils or dried rice as again, only the larger species of birds can eat these dry. Some suppliers also use dry dog biscuits to bulk up the product, so do check the list of ingredients before you buy.

Many of the RSPB seed mixes contain either sunflower hearts or seeds and the RSPB is the first supplier to sell ‘Fair to Nature’ certified sunflower products. This means that the growers must meet rigorous conservation standards. Although these are grown globally, the RSPB only uses sunflower seeds grown on well-run European farms. The seed is checked for toxins and cleaned to remove unwanted ingredients such as insects.

So now you are assured about the quality of RSPB bird foods let’s look at what you can add to your bird café menu.

Blackbirds will eat a broad range of food from fatty suet nibbles to mealworms. Like robins, they will feed mostly on the ground so a low table or clear patch of lawn away from overhanging trees or fences is ideal. Why not grab a bag of dried mealworms next time you’re in the shop and you’ll soon see these visitors make an appearance.

Blue tits and great tits will use a feeder and prefer a seed mix such as the RSPB’s Favourites blend or Feeder Mix. This also contains black sunflower seeds which are an excellent year-round food with a higher oil content than striped sunflower seeds. And if you want to encourage finches and greenfinches to your greenspace then put out a dish of sunflower hearts or fill your feeder with our No Mess Sunflower Mix.

If you are lucky enough to have goldfinches and siskins in your garden, then nyjer seeds (rich in fat with a high oil content) are top of the pops with these species. And if you are serving peanuts, it’s best to crush these first to make them easily edible for small birds such as robins, wrens and tits.

During winter, keep an eye on your feeders and tables as you may need to top up supplies more than once a day. If you’re putting out a new feeder it may take a while for news to get around that your café is open for business, but once the news is out, you’re bound to have visitors galore. However your visitor demographic is made up, you can sit back, relax and watch the show knowing that the RSPB only uses the best ingredients for your garden favourites.