Beginner birder here. I've set up a feeding station in my garden and it's already been seeing quite a few visitors! I just have a few questions for things I'm unsure about.
1) Is it okay to use tap water for the birdbath?
2) If they don't get wet, how long should I leave bird seed out in a tray feeder if it's not eaten?
3) How long should I leave bird seed out in a hanging feeder if it's not eaten?
4) I use suet blocks, balls, and pellets (by far the most popular item I offer, they're hoovered up within a few hours) - how long should these be left out before replacing them?
5) How often should I properly clean all of the feeders and birdbath?
Any help is hugely appreciated!
Hi danny and welcome to the community forum; I would say it is ok to use tap water for bird baths. Regarding food, I would only fill up a feeder to a third or half level at first and see how many birds use that particular type of food and how quickly it goes down before adjusting the quanity either up or down, that way you don't waste expensive bird food especially if we get damp weather as seeds and peanuts can go mouldy which is harmful to birds due to bacterial build up.
In the winter months you should be able to leave a feeder out for several days and it will keep fresh, just start with small quantities in each feeder as it's easier to top up as the level decreases until you get an idea of which seed/suet/peanuts go down the fastest and thus you can top them up a little more.
Feeders should be cleaned thoroughly at least every fortnight (I dismantle our feeders completely washing them in hot soapy water before thoroughly rinsing and then air-drying them indoors) Bird tables, perches on feeders should be cleaned every day and bird baths regularly. Also throw away any food on a bird table that has been contaminated by bird poop and wipe down the table. I rotate feeders - one outside whilst one is taken in for cleaning. Ensure that no seed is left on the ground too long as it can encourage vermin and reposition feeding stations every three months if you can to avoid build up of seed waste under the feeders and this will give the ground beneath time to recover if it is on grass or soil.
Fat products like suet pellets, fat-cake, fat-balls and peanuts are quite popular at this time of year when the weather is colder and birds need to take on more fat to sustain their energy levels; our birds too love the suet pellets. Just ensure that seed and especially peanuts do not get too wet as they can eventually turn damp producing mould. Bird table food should be ok as long as it is not left out for days once it is wet.
You may want to take a look at this older post about keeping bird food HERE
Finally, enjoy watching your garden birds as they will appreciate the food you offer them during this cold spell. It is Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend so if you are participating in the hour count I hope you have a lot of lovely visitors to your feeders. Good luck.
My Flickr. photo link HERE
Hello Danny, welcome from me up in Caithness, at the very top of Scotland. I think Hazel has answered all your questions and given you excellent advice, so there is nothing for me to add. Enjoy the birds and if you are doing the BGW at the weekend, be sure to let us know how you get on.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
In reply to HAZY:
Thank you very much! That's a comprehensive and very helpful answer. I didn't consider watching to see how much of each food is taken then adjusting accordingly, so thank you for that suggestion. At the rate my birds eat the suet pellets I may have to leave them out every other day or something, otherwise it'd become expensive real fast!
I only seem to be getting small birds going for the peanuts at the moment so it looks like it'll be going slowly. Can I ask how long peanuts should be left out if it doesn't rain?
I've bought a small fountain for the birdbath to try to make it more attractive to the birds, should I get my hopes up to see a bird using it during the cold winter months?
A lot of questions but I just want to make sure I don't harm any of the birds!
Thanks again, I'll definitely be taking part in the BGW.
In reply to Catlady:
Thank you - likewise with the BGW!
In reply to dannyyenson:
Hi Danny, if the birds are not taking too many peanuts then just fill to low level and they should last quite a long time, well over a week or more in this colder weather if they don't get damp; just keep your eye on the feeder and give it a shake now and again in case any moisture builds up overnight and collects inside the feeder/mesh; if peanuts are going off they will start to blacken so don't worry as you will know when they not fresh any more. The fountain sounds very nice but it is not necessary for the birds and could be a bit distracting for them as they usually just like to immerse themselves to have a good bathe. Small birds will even use large planter saucers which you can fill with water; Birds will bathe during the coldest weather, even in icy conditions so all you have to do is ensure it is fresh water daily if you can and break any ice off the surface as they will still use the water to bathe. They don't seem to feel the cold like we do !!
Sounds like you are doing all the right things so relax, sit back and enjoy watching those birds making good use of the food you supply and the bird bath. Good luck this weekend for the BGBW and let us know how you get on.
Hazel has given all the right info in my opinion when you think about it birds probably eat natural food that is staler than any in her feeders. I spent many years involved in the water industry and cannot think of what harm tap water would do birds. Enjoy your birding it is a great interest
Birding is for everyone no matter how good or bad we are at it,enjoy it while you can
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654