Feeding Birds in your Garden

People like to feed the birds because they are kind and have love for animals.

There is nothing wrong with this, but you need to remember that long term it is more harmful to have the birds depend on you than it is to have them fend for themselves.

The nutritional requirements of all wildlife is so complex that we could never feed exactly what is required to keep them healthy for the long term.

Even as wildlife rehabilitators we can have difficulty establishing the correct diets when caring for sick, injured or orphaned wildlife. They need the correct diet in order to grow properly.

A kereru in the garden
A kereru in the garden

NO Seed Mix

Many birds attracted to such seed mix are not even seed eaters - some are nectar eaters and most are insect eaters.

The digestive systems of nectar eating birds (e.g. tuis and silvereyes) are designed for liquid intake, and grains may actually cause damage to their sensitive tongues with which they collect nectar.

A juvenile Tui enjoying some fresh fruit
A juvenile Tui enjoying some fresh fruit

NO Bread

Bread should not be fed to birds for the following reasons:

  • It has poor nutritional value, causing deficiencies and predisposing birds to disease and deformities. 
  • It reduces calcium levels which can cause softer egg shells, which in turn can affect the fertility rates of birds.
  • It can lead to a rise in bacteria levels in waterways, as uneaten bread settles to the bottom of ponds and rots, contaminating the water (botulism).
  • It can ferment in the gut, causing bacterial infections as well as gum infections.

NO Honey

Never put out honey or honey-water for birds. Birds love it but so do bees, so this practice can spread bee diseases.

Raw sugar water is better, used in a 1:8 ratio.

Make sure dishes are cleaned daily to avoid spreading of disease.

Feed the Birds in your Garden Naturally

1. Grow native trees.

2. Know your birds.

3. Find out what they need.

4. Select plants to grow so food is available all year.


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