Wild birds – all year round feeding

Why feed birds?

There is less natural food available.

Since the mid-20th century the number and diversity of species of our native wild birds has been rapidly diminishing because of the loss and degradation of habitat. Increasing construction, together with intensified farming methods and the use of pesticides makes it more difficult for the birds to find food. On monocultures with almost no wild herbs and in insect-free gardens planted with exotics the food supply is significantly lower than on the farms, in the kitchen gardens and orchards, which used predominantly to be cultivated on a small scale.

Species, which used to be common, are already endangered!

This trend has also affected formerly common species, such as house and tree sparrows, starlings and skylarks. Populations of species which are not yet endangered, such as tits, should be protected, before they dwindle. To replace the habitats they used to have, we are left with the alternative of feeding wild birds and when we have a garden, of organising it on natural lines.

Feeding wild birds is a contribution to species protection

Correct feeding makes a valuable contribution to the protection of species and to preserving the variety of species. It gives back to the birds, that which our culture has taken from them. And not least, observing the colourful behaviour of our feather guests at the feeding site gives us pleasure. Even on a balcony in a town or city you can conjure up a little bird paradise. In the urban environment as well there are many different species, which regularly seek out the feeding site.

Frequent objections to feeding birds all year round

Feeding the birds all year round makes the birds “dependent”

Studies show that even in the harshest winter weather the birds obtain only a portion of their food at feeding sites and continue to spend a lot of time searching for natural food.

Parent birds fed their nestlings with unsuitable food

The nestlings continue to be provided with caterpillars and grubs, insects, spiders and snails, while the adult birds themselves are glad to take energy-rich food from the feeding site in between feeding their young.

There is a high risk of infection at feeding sites

Transmission of disease at ordinary feeding sites is a significant exception, because birds are at a very low risk of infection because of their constitution.

Feeding disturbs natural selection

Since feeding the birds replaces only part of the food, which they can today no longer find in the natural environment, selection factors continue to have their normal effects. There remains the question as to whether “natural” selection is still possible at all in our radically changed environment.

When should I feed?

Spring

Migratory birds return to their territories and the breeding season begins. In the cool weather there is a limited supply of insects and seed stores are not yet ripe.

Summer

The adult birds are expending a great deal of energy in rearing their young. Newly-fledged squabs are searching for food.

Autumn

Migratory species can now build up their strength for the journey and find a drop-in centre for their return in late winter or spring. Young birds are roaming around in search of their own territories and get to know feeding sites, which may possibly be important for their survival in winter.

Winter

During cold nights birds lose up to 10% of their body weight. In order to compensate for the loss they now need a lot of energy. The feeding sites must be known to the birds before the first frost, so that they can be used without the bird having to undertake a long search.

How should I feed the birds?

There are various types of wild bird feeder on the market; the four major types are:

Feeder

Feeders provide protection from contamination and damp. Only the amount of food needed slides out.

Bird table with bird house

Decorative and suitable for less skillful climbing and clinging species: the bird table with bird house. The roof overhang keeps the feed tray dry in rain and snow.

Bird fat balls

When tits or nuthatches “work” on the bird fat ball, fragments of food fall to the birds on the ground.

Feeder with grill

Groundnut or energy block feeders are protected from being plundered by crows, magpies or squirrels. Only small amounts can be extracted through the grill.

Who eats what?

The visitors to feeding sites can be divided into different categories on the basis of their feeding habits.

Grain-eating birds

Birds which eat soft food

Birds which eat soft food / omnivores

What should I feed?

You can help a large number of our native bird species all year round with our compound bird feed and groundnuts. They are suitable for grain-eaters and soft food eaters. The high-quality composition of our compound bird feed means that all the food is eaten.

Groundnut kernels

A highly attractive food for many species. They release large amounts of energy and are taken eagerly by birds such as nuthatches, tits, sparrows and finches.

Garden bird feed, without shells

Ideal for balcony or terrace, since there are no shells to be dropped. Composition: shelled sunflower seeds, blanched groundnut kernels, canary seed, porridge oats, wheat flakes, fat-rich food, hemp seed, bird feed sultanas. Suitable for grain-eating birds and soft food eating birds.

Wild bird food with fruit

Composition: Canary seed, yellow millet, milo, red millet, hemp seed, linseed, wild seed, dark rapeseed, oat kernels, shelled sunflower seeds, buck wheat, niger seed, calcium, groundnut kernels the size of hemp seed, raisins, pieces of apple, poppy seed. Suitable for grain-eating birds and soft food eating birds.

Wild bird feed mix

Composition: Cereal flakes, sunflower seeds, groundnuts in red skin, hemp seed and bird feed sultanas. Suitable for grain-eating birds and soft food eating birds.

All year round ball

Ideal energy supply in the breeding season with valuable minerals for forming egg shells, for instance. Composition: Cereal flakes, beef suet, small seeds, minerals, groundnuts. Suitable for grain-eating birds and soft food eating birds.

Wild birds – nests

The world of local birds

Especially in urban areas natural nesting sites for our wild birds have become rare. Old, rotten trees are felled; buildings without niches with smooth façades and tidy gardens make it difficult for our birds to find suitable places to build their nests. Nest boxes as substitutes for natural holes in hollow trees are therefore very welcome, especially in a garden designed in a nature-friendly way with trees, hedges and bushes. In places like these the birds find enough food during the breeding season.

The right location

When installing the nest box, care must be taken that it is protected from direct sunlight. The entrance hole should face east or south-east. The nest box may be tilted slightly forwards to protect it from rain and a roof overhang is a good idea. It can be hung up at eye level or, if it might be disturbed there, at a height of 2-3 m. Most of the smaller cavity-nesting birds do not mind at what height the nest box is installed, but for larger species the nest box should be hung higher up. The best way to fix the nest box to trees is with an aluminium nail, which will not damage the tree, or, with a wire. The best time to install nest boxes is in autumn. Then they can be used as shelter in the winter. This also offers the birds the chance to become familiar with suitable nest-sites for the next breeding season. The nest box should hang safely out of the reach of cats, martens and squirrels; the best sites are hanging freely from branches or on a smooth house wall. On tree trunks a cuff can provide protection from predators. Nest boxes for sparrows or redstarts can be installed beneath the eaves or beneath balconies. Conversely, robins and wrens prefer nest-sites close to the ground up to about a height of 1 m. Here you must be particularly careful to protect from predators.

Maintenance

In autumn or winter the box should be cleaned. Old nests should be completely removed. If there is parasite infection, the nest box can be fumigated with a burning newspaper. If a nest box is not used at all, it is recommended that the next year you select a new location for it.

Breeding behaviour

The birds begin nest-building in early spring. You can observe them collecting grass and moss and taking it to the breeding site. If the female has laid her eggs, it is usually the male, which forages for food, while the female sits on the eggs for about 14 days. Once the eggs have hatched, the little birds have no feathers and their eyes are closed. The parent birds search tirelessly for insects, worms and grubs to feed their brood. You can hear the young begging for food as soon as one of the parents flies to the nest. After about 18 days the young birds leave the nest. Now the box can be cleaned, possibly it will then be used again for a second brood in the same year. A nest box in the garden or on the balcony offers the possibility of watching the process from nest-building to the departure of the young birds.

Great Tit Chicks

The proper nesting box

In order to facilitate the foraging of birds during the breeding season and to avoid turf wars, one should select different versions of nesting boxes at the same time. Depending on the version of the nesting box and the size of the entry hole, it is preferred by certain species of birds.

Bird speciesØ Entry
Blue titca. 26-28 mm
Coal titca. 26-28 mm
Crested titca. 26-28 mm
Marsh titca. 26-28 mm
Willow titca. 26-28 mm
Great titca. 32 mm
Nuthatchca. 32 mm
House sparrowca. 35 mm
Tree sprarrowca. 35 mm
European pied flycatcherca. 35 mm
Starlingca. 45 mm
Great spottet woodpeckerca. 45 mm
Eurasian wryneckca. 45 mm
Robinshelter cave
Common and black redstartshelter cave
Spotted flycatchershelter cave

Bats

Bats in Germany

Bats belong to the only airworthy mammals. Shortly after sunset, you can watch them starting to hunt. Among the most widespread species in Germany are house bats, pipistrellus and daubenton’s bats. Due to the steady decline of the stock, they are nevertheless on the Red List and must therefore be protected.

Tips for attaching bat quarters

Attach the quarter of your choice in a place protected from the weather as much as possible. Make sure that it does not hang behind possible obstacles such as trees and keep it at least four meters away from the ground. If possible, attach different boxes in different directions so that the bats can change their quarters depending on weather and season.

Squirrels / hedgehogs

Squirrels in the garden

Fortunately, the European squirrel is not on the Red List, but under the German Federal Ordinance on the Conservation of Species it is regarded as a specially protected species. In the last few decades the squirrel population in the forests has been decreasing, whereas it is increasing in the towns. The squirrel has developed habits to enable it to survive in areas developed by Man. This rodent has found excellent living conditions in some gardens and parks. In order to make your own garden more attractive to squirrels, you can install feeding sites for them and put up dreys as sleeping and nesting sites.

Should you feed squirrels in the garden?

If you feed squirrels the correct food for the species, there is no harm in feeding the animals. They do not become accustomed to relying solely on this source of food.

Feed them to your heart’s content

Hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, small pieces of carrot, rusks without sugar, watermelons, pieces of apple, grapes, kiwi fruit and plenty of fresh water. The dobar squirrel food is a healthy mixture of seeds, fruit and nuts. If you can, install feeding sites in various places in your garden, so that the animals can get out of each others’ way, for usually several squirrels come visiting at once.

The hedgehog

The hedgehog is a welcome guest in our gardens, since it mainly feeds on slugs and snails, caterpillars and grubs and insects. Unfortunately hedgehogs are an endangered species in Europe. In Germany hedgehogs are protected all year round under the German Federal Act for the Protection of Nature. The hedgehog’s main enemy is Man, whose inroads into the natural environment have deprived the hedgehog of its habitat.

The garden can become a hedgehog paradise at very little cost:

  • Hedgehogs range over vast areas on the search for food. Make your garden accessible to hedgehogs. Hedges and picket fencing, for instance, offer sufficient opportunities for the hedgehogs to squeeze through.
  • Plant native plants and timber for preference. They are not only better adapted to our soils and our climate than exotic plants, they also provide the basic habitat for a variety of insects, for birds and for small mammals.
  • Especially in dry summers a shallow dish, in which the water is changed every day, can be a great help, and not just to hedgehogs.
  • Do not use any chemicals in your garden. Pesticides kill the insects, which are the natural food for the hedgehog.
  • Provide the hedgehogs with natural shelters, such as thick hedges, shrubs, piles of dry sticks and leaves and compost heaps, cavities under stacks of wood or old tree roots.

Feeding hedgehogs

Feeding hedgehogs in the garden, especially in autumn and winter, gives them significant help. This helps to prevent hedgehogs being underweight in winter. In order to protect the food from rain and uninvited guests, we recommend the use of a feeding house. The dobar hedgehog feeding house has a roof, covered in bitumen, which can be opened. A labyrinth and an extendible entrance stop cats and dogs entering the feeding house. Since there are frequently several hedgehogs at the feeding site, the hedgehog feeding house has two entrances to avoid quarrelling. It is best to place the feeding bowl on newspaper, which can be changed every day. Remove any food left over each day and clean the feeding bowl in hot water. Suitable foods include tinned cat food, scrambled eggs or food developed specifically for hedgehogs. dobar hedgehog food has been developed in cooperation with hedgehog rescue centres and so it is used and recommended by many hedgehog shelters. dobar hedgehog food can be fed direct from the packet. If the food has been stored for some time and has dried our (the honey has crystallised out) it is easy to moisten each portion with water, fruit juice, etc. Optionally, the food can be supplemented with ripe fruit, honey, baby foods, etc.

Insects

Useful insects

There are many insects, which do useful tasks in the garden, on the terrace or balcony. In tidy gardens and landscapes natural nesting places and shelters have become rare. This insect hotel provides shelter, nesting and overwintering for various useful insects. Insect hotels give an experience of nature and contribute to an intact environment. The inhabitants are peace-loving, ensure the crops on our cultivated plants and keep aphids and other pests in check. The bees or wasps, which live here, are solitary. Since they have no community to defend, they are not aggressive; they simply construct individual brood chambers for their young.

The right location

Hang or place the insect hotel in a sheltered spot, in full sun or semi-shade. The front should not face the weather side, but should face east, south or south-west. Make sure that the insect hotel does not swing backwards and forwards in the wind. The insect hotel should remain outdoors all year round. If the insects overwinter in the warmth, there is a risk that the useful animals will hatch too early and then die.

Maintenance

The insect hotel must not be cleaned. Do not paint or varnish the wood.

Wild bees

Wild bees are more efficient pollinators than honey bees. This makes them important harvest helpers in the garden. Various species of wild bee e.g. mason bees, face-masked bees or hole-dwelling bees use hollow stalks and lengths of wood as nest sites. Many wild bee species live individually (solitary bees). Each female builds her own nest, constructs brood cells in it, and supplies these with a mixture of pollen and nectar. She lays her egg in the brood cell and then seals the cell with a transverse wall. After laying the eggs, the female dies. The eggs she has laid develop into bees, which spend the winter in total quiet and leave the nest in the spring of the following year.

Green lacewings

The lacewings owe their name to the gauze-like structure of their wings (gauze). They are also called goldeyes. Their larvae feed on pests, such as aphids, psyllids and spider mites. This is what makes them so popular with gardeners. The adult flies eat nectar and honey dew. They are active at dusk and at night. These delicate flies use the insect hotel as shelter all year round.

Butterflies

Butterflies seek shelter in bad weather. Some species such as the peacock, the small tortoiseshell, the brimstone and the comma butterfly overwinter in cool spaces and hollows. Fill the butterfly house with branches or bits of bark.

Ladybirds

The seven-point ladybird, not only looks attractive, it is also a friend to every gardener, for it is a keen aphid predator. The ladybird larvae eat many hundreds of aphids before they pupate and become bugs. Ladybirds find shelter and a place to overwinter in pine cones, bits of bark or in hay.

Earwigs

The earwig, also known in rural England as the battle-twig and in Germany as the “ear worm”, is an omnivore and is regarded a useful animal, since aphids, for example, are among its favourite snacks. It is neither a worm, nor is it particularly interested in ears. The pincers (“nippers”) are important for hunting, defence and mating. Earwigs are active at night or at dusk and spend the day in hiding places, such as bark, pine cones or hay.

Examples from our range wildlife