In our latitude, birds can generally get through the winter without extra feed. They only need our support if snow covers everything or if there are long periods of frost.
Migratory birds that return weakened after their long flight back from the south in spring, however, urgently need extra food to regain their strength and to prepare for the breeding season. Therefore experts advise not to stop feeding the birds once the winter is over.
For people in Germany, feeding wild birds in winter has a long tradition. At feeding places, birds can be observed from very close, and we get the chance to study the different types of birds. This is especially true for children and young people, who these days have less and less chances of making their own observations and having their own experiences in nature. Therefore a bird feeder in the garden or on the balcony is useful for us as well as for the birds.
Food dispensers or silo bird feeders are best as the birds do not hop around in the food and cannot contaminate it with their droppings.
A traditional bird feeder can be used as well, but it should be cleaned regularly with hot water (about once a week). Please do not use disinfectants or cleaning agents.
It is important to keep the feeding place clean and dry to prevent diseases from spreading. Only feed small amounts at a time and remove old food regularly.
Place your bird feeder in a clearly visible place where no cat can creep up. Trees and bushes surrounding the feeding place at an appropriate distance offer protection against sparrowhawks, magpies or ravens.
Special care should be taken if the bird feeder is close to windows or glass panes. These can become deadly traps for the birds. Stickers can prevent collisions.
Wild birds can be divided into granivores and those that feed on soft food. Finches, sparrows and buntings feed on grains. Sunflower seeds and field-grown mixtures are suitable for them.
Soft feed eaters like titmice, blackbirds, robins and wrens can be offered fat balls, raisins, fruit, oats or bran.
Salted food should never be fed to birds. Bread cannot be recommended either, as it swells in the bird's stomach.