People who love animals, old people and small children just love to feed birds. Throwing a bit of bread to the ducks in the park, laying hard bread edges on the birds in the garden – this is considered a survival aid, especially in winter. However, this is not good for the birds, and in the park for other reasons than in the garden.
Birds don’t choke on bread
Every now and then one hears that ducks and other birds would suffocate on the hard pieces of bread because they cannot chop them with their beaks. With really hard pieces of bread it may be really difficult for the animals, but they don’t take anything in their beaks that they cannot swallow. So you will definitely not suffocate.
This is especially true of ducks and other water birds. If your food is too hard for you, simply dip it in the water until it is soft enough to eat. Nevertheless, feeding the birds in the park is prohibited in many communities: find the animals
a rich natural food supply and can take care of themselves. If they are additionally fed with toasted bread or other baked goods, the remnants of the baked goods accumulate in the water and allow them to tip over at some point. Secondly, the animals are not naturally accustomed to such carbohydrate-rich food that they would develop obesity over time. This is also undesirable, which is why an urban ban on feeding should be observed.
The salt is problematic
Many birds are grateful for a feeding place in the garden and like to be pampered, especially in winter. They like fruits, grains, cereals and seeds trapped in fat. What they eat, although it is not good for them: bread. There is actually no salt-free bread in Germany today. The salt harms the animals as well as pure fats (butter, lard or margarine) and pure white flour products. The animals need the fatty acids, vitamins and minerals that grain feed has, not least thanks to the shells and husks it contains. A toasted bread offers fast energy, but also contains a lot of salt and actually only short-chain carbohydrates, which are quickly implemented. It is not good for the animals.
Birds are also bad:
And besides salt there is another reason not to give bread to the birds. The bread is dry and swells in the bird’s stomach, where it draws moisture from the animals. However, since the stomach is already full with the swollen bread, the bird will not drink – this damages the health of the animals.
The right food for every bird
The different domestic birds eat very different things. While blackbirds like to get worms, maggots and small insects out of the ground in summer, they also like to eat grain feed in winter. The same applies to titmice. And where the starlings don’t fly south in autumn, they also take grain feed in winter. Regular bird or chicken feed is well suited for winter feeding. The animals like to eat the bran used in the chicken mixes as well as:
You can attract titmouse with sunflower seeds. And they especially like it when the kernels are glued together in a dumpling or a ring of tallow. Finished titballs from specialist shops often contain other seeds and grains, sometimes even nuts, in addition to sunflower seeds. The animals eat that too. Finches and sparrows often share the grain shell with the tits, because these animals also like to eat grains and seeds.
Soft food for everyone else
Robins, hedge brownella, blackbirds and other birds also hibernate in Germany. However, they do not like to eat hard grains. You can lure these birds with raisins, oatmeal, cut apple pieces and citrus fruits. These birds also accept bran. You shouldn’t get bread for the reasons already mentioned.
When fresh fruit is fed, it is essential to ensure that it does not freeze. When the temperatures drop below freezing, the high water content in fresh fruit ensures that ice crystals form. Such food is bad for the birds. When it is so cold, the food should really only be brought outside when the birds are eating (usually early in the morning and in the evening). Only a small amount of food should be placed outside so that the birds can eat the fruit immediately.
Set up the feeding station safely
Feeding bowls on the floor attract rats. This scares the birds and leads to hygienic problems. In addition, birds do not like to eat on the ground, where they are easy prey for cats. The place for winter feeding should therefore be carefully selected. Extensive, not too high branches on trees are good for laying out forage there. But special bird feeders and feed dispensers can also be hung in the trees; birds generally like to take these feeding places. Stand-alone birdhouses, on the other hand, should be constructed in such a way that they offer protection against both cats and birds of prey and cannot be climbed by mice or rats.
The feeding place should be kept clean. If the food gets wet, it will mold and rot at some point. This is extremely unhealthy for the birds and should therefore be avoided. Rain protection or a feed container that is watertight from above and from the sides are therefore useful. If the feed gets wet anyway, it must be replaced.
Potions and bird baths are also important in winter
Grain feed in particular is very dry. So the birds need some water to maintain their fluid balance. Birds also like to bathe in winter. A flat clay bowl with some (warmed) water that is refilled several times a day is a good idea. The birds cannot do anything with a frozen water hole, so the bird bath should definitely be kept ice-free. It is usually sufficient to put the bowl out with lukewarm water in the morning when the temperatures are already above freezing, and to bring the bowl back into the house in the afternoon before the lower temperatures freeze the water at night.
Contradictory opinions on winter feeding
Winter feeding is generally not advised, but there are still loud voices that speak out against it. Winter feeding does not help any endangered songbird species, and it will also save only a few animals from starvation. Because the bird species usually find enough food here. And the songbirds, which actually migrate to the south and are hunted there, only stay out of the country due to the winter feeding (which could save their lives and stabilize the population). For animal welfare reasons or even to save species, feeding is not necessary.
But it doesn’t hurt either. The 20 or so bird species addressed by the rich range of feeds do not reproduce more simply because they are supplied with feed in winter. And they don’t displace other species or the like. The animals do not become too lazy to find their own food
(because feeding in the garden is simply too unreliable from a bird’s perspective), so that the natural balance is not disturbed by the well-intentioned gifts.
But there is one important reason that speaks for a feeding place in the garden or on the balcony: environmental education. Children who can observe animals at feeding places develop a completely different understanding of these creatures and show them respect. Once interest is piqued, the relationships between habitats and native animal species are perceived and understood in a completely different way. Apart from that, it is of course simply fun to watch the feathered and sometimes quite colorful aerial acrobats at their meal. Sparrows in particular do wonderful tricks if they want to prevail against the competition at the feeding place!
And this lures somewhat more unusual guests into the garden:
Mealworms (for blackbirds and goldfinch)
whole hazelnuts and acorns (for the jay)
whole peanuts and corn kernels (magpie, jay, goldfinch)
chopped nuts, poppy seeds and hemp seeds (greenfinch)
greased peanuts (for the green woodpecker)
It is very attractive when some types of feed hang from a long cord from high branches. Because woodpeckers, various grain eaters and even sometimes titmice can run down the thin ropes upside down to get the feed.
Better only feed in winter
For environmental educational reasons one might argue that feeding the whole year would not hurt either. That is correct so far, but there is a catch: if the temperatures rise, it is more difficult to keep the feeding points hygienically clean. The birds can infect each other very quickly with all kinds of diseases, and the food cannot be kept clean on warm, damp days.