Feeding birds: Save birds by feeding them properly

Bird extinction is stopped by habitat conservation and feeding
According to Prof. Martin Kraft from Marburg, many media report again and again that feeding all year round is nonsensical. It is often said that only the bird species that are widespread are reached through feeding. The rare and migratory birds would have little chance of breeding. However, this does not correspond to the level of knowledge of experts and science. Because investigations that make these claims do not exist.

Dramatic decline

In 2016/2017 the NABU winter count showed a 17% decrease in the number of common bird species in bird feeders. In Germany, almost half of all breeding birds are on the red list of threatened species. Species of birds that rely on insects, such as robins, have been steadily declining for years. The cause is clear: the amount of insects has dropped by up to 80% across Germany. This means that insectivores lack food and without them they cannot raise their young.

The field birds are affected

Species that live in agricultural landscapes are most affected. Their breeding pairs have decreased by 57% in the EU since 1980, i.e. by 300 million. They include lapwing such as black-tailed godwit and snipe, skylark, brown and stonechat, gold and gray bunting and Ortolon, meadow pipit, quail and partridge.

Why do the field birds disappear?

The main reasons for bird extinction are the loss of habitats such as meadows, wet meadows, farmland stripes and insect death, both of which go hand in hand. More and more effective pesticides "do their job", ie kill insects; Maize and rape cultivation drive out birds that rely on open landscapes.

No plants without insects

Insect death does not only deprive insectivores of food; countless plants rely on bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and butterflies as pollinators. If they fail, the seed-bearing wild plants from which the grain eaters live also disappear. However, there are hardly any long-term studies for which universities still lack the funds.

No more seeds

Ornithologist Peter Berthold represents year-round feeding. He says: “In the 1950s, birds were able to find over a million tons of field herbs on all wheat fields in Germany. It was the same from a wheat field - and on potato fields and other fields. It was an enormous amount of feed. Today, nothing grows in the fields except wheat, corn or potatoes. ”

What can you do about bird extinction?

The main causes of bird extinction are habitat destruction and lack of food, so obtaining food and creating habitats are the key measures to stop bird extinction. As a private person you can contribute to this. Private gardens play a key role, provided that they are bird-friendly and that they feed the birds well through edible plants and the right feed.

The bird-friendly garden

Avoid poison and leave wild herbs in corners of the garden. An English lawn killed by pesticides and a garden where every month that vanishes into the organic waste bin, from which wild animals could live for just as long, does not provide a habitat for birds. The bird feeders and nesting boxes installed in such ecological deserts are like a shower cleaned with Domestos as an adequate biotope for fire salamanders.

Berries and nettles

You can offer many birds food, hiding places and nesting sites at the same time by providing native plants: thrushes love the berries of elderberry, hawthorn, mountain ash and sloe; Greenfinches, sparrows and bullfinches like cereals, grasses, nettles, thistles, sorrel or dandelions as well as sunflowers, pumpkins, beech nuts, walnuts or hazelnuts. Tits eat berries and grains.

Firethorn feeds birds and bees, as well as hedge and bird cherry; Holly offers food and nesting sites, as does the hornbeam and apple trees. The dogwood gives excellent fruits for birds. Plants that carry seeds and fruits that attract birds are, for example: columbine, heather, mullein, soapwort, mountain ash, privet, viburnum, daphne or turnip.

Foliage and dead wood

Do not keep your garden clinically clean, do not use leaf blowers. Create a dead wood hedge; insects survive the winter in a brushwood, hedge brown and wren find their place here; stack the autumn leaves on a pile of leaves and leave some fruit lying there.

Fundamentals of bird feeding

1) Keep the feeding place clean and dry. As little droppings as possible should get into the feed. Feed columns and feed silos are particularly suitable. Do you build your bird feeder yourself? Then make sure that the feed does not wet or freeze even in heavy rain, snow or wind. Otherwise it will rot quickly.

2) Clean the feeding point regularly and do not use any caustic agents. You can brush the bird feeder and wash it off with hot water. Remove dead birds; wear rubber gloves and put the carcass in a sealable plastic bag. Dead birds can indicate Salmonellosis or Trichomonads.

3) If you have a legitimate suspicion of any of these diseases, stop feeding and disinfect the house with a vinegar solution. Clean all feed residues from the feed house, floor and surroundings.

4) Stop the spread of disease by offering food at several small feeding sites instead of one large one. This also has the advantage that dominant species and animals do not drive the weaker from the feeding place.

However, you should not overestimate the risk of disease to birds. Berthold says: “This is also because the birds have such a high body temperature. Up to 45 degrees Celsius. Such temperatures do not survive bacteria! And they have a very good immune system. Many birds live in close proximity to humans. A village used to be a smelly business, there was no sewage system, the manure ran from the dung heap over the streets. Blackbirds, tits and robins hopped all over the place in this filth - they have been used to this environment for centuries. ”

5) Pigeons, crows and magpies eat a lot first and secondly drive away small songbirds from the feeding place. To prevent this, secure certain feeding places with wire mesh or set up feeding houses whose openings are too small for raven birds and pigeons.

6) Place the bird feeder elevated on an open area. This enables the birds to recognize creeping cats or martens at an early stage. At the same time there should be bushes or trees at a distance of about three meters into which the songbirds can escape if a sparrowhawk attacks.

7) Some birds look for their food on the ground. Set them up with special automatic feeders. Clean the feeding point on earth and change the location regularly.

Which feed is suitable?

Berthold says: “You should take a mixed feed with lots of seeds and with as few wheat grains as possible. (...) Then you should add a little soft fat feed, i.e. soft cereal flakes that have been enriched with oil. And the most important thing: fat. The ultimate is the titballs! ”

We roughly differentiate between two types of birds when feeding: grain and soft food eaters. Many species take in both plants and insects, some prefer hard seeds, others soft fruit.

Soft feeders are, for example, robins, wren, songbirds and juniper thrushes. All types of berries are suitable for them. If you haven't collected any berries, raisins are a good substitute in winter. Then there are generally all types of fruit such as apples, pears or peaches, as well as oatmeal and bran. These species also mainly eat soil.

Tip: For juniper thrushes in particular, you can simply collect apples that have fallen down in a crate for feeding and place them in front of the animals. Soft-boiled potatoes, finely chopped beets and acorns also provide valuable nutrients.

The most important food for most species at the bird feeder is sunflower seeds. Titmice prefer a mixture of fat and seeds. You can buy them as sticks or dumplings, but you can also make them in bulk. You should not only offer water in summer, but also in winter, in bird baths and water bowls, because the grain feed is dry.

NoGos in bird feeding

1) Do not feed any kitchen waste. All salty foods are harmful: bread with salt, chips, pretzels, ham, bacon, sausage and cheese.

2) Do not feed anything frozen and ensure that the food does not freeze.

3) Bread is unsuitable for bird feed. It quickly gets bad and swells in the birds' stomach.

Fruit eater

Starlings, bluebirds, waxwings and a number of other species love fruit. Elderberries and the fruits of mountain ash, bird, sour and sweet cherries are just as suitable as blackberries, raspberries or blueberries.

Green fodder

Mixed eaters and vegetarians love chickweed, dandelions, shepherd's purse or plantain.

Homemade bird food

To make bird food yourself, heat 300 grams of coconut fat in a saucepan, but don't let it boil. You add two tablespoons of cooking oil and 300 grams of mixed grains such as sunflower seeds and hemp seed, Niger or poppy seeds, with chopped nuts. Mountain, green and chaffinch, siskin, grosbeak and bullfinch, house and tree sparrow love that. Woodpeckers and nuthatches also take the mixture, but need additional fat and mealworms, wax moth larvae, etc.

For soft eaters, mix in oatmeal, wheat bran and raisins instead of sunflower seeds. Cabbage, swamp, tail and fir tit like peanut break, sunflower seeds and fat food.

You can fill this mixture in liquid state in flower pots, bowls or halved coconuts.

The feeding place

The many bird species look for their food in different places, tree runners on trunks and branches, thrushes and brownelles on the ground, titmouse shimmy through the bushes, raven birds and sparrows find their food everywhere.

For this reason titmouse dumplings, which are hung on ribbons, are suitable for titmice, for nuthatches, woodpeckers and tree runners you offer food on tree bark or wood; Thrushes, robins, hedge brown finches and mountain finches feed you on the ground. Starlings, chaffinches and sparrows don't care where you put the feed.

Critics object to year-round feeding that the birds would forget to find their natural food. Berthold says no. He says: “For the birds, our feed is only a moderate kitchen, so to speak, good middle-class. If they have something else to offer, they take action. Or even so: The birds use the titballs for the energy they need to catch insects for their young. “You can also take care of insectivores.

Forage trees

In your own garden you can put grease in the bark of larger trees, but only in small quantities, otherwise it will quickly spoil. You can also drill holes in a rotten branch and brush the mixture into it. Nuthatches and tree runners will thank them.


Insectivores are, for example, tree runners, hedge brownella, summer and winter golden chickens, warblers, swallows, wagtails or wren, wall-mounted and alpine sailors. These animals contain soft food, dry insect food, insects such as insect larvae. In the animal feed trade, various feed animals can now be bought that are suitable for insectivores.


There are crickets in small, medium and large, the medium ones are up to 2.5 centimeters long. Terrarium owners are the main buyers. You can get crickets in a pet store, but you should order a bird feeder from a specialist retailer, because these crickets are much cheaper. They draw the crickets alive and then freeze them in the box. In the meantime, you can also buy crickets that are cooked and frozen and that defrost for longer than freshly frozen ones.

Steppe crickets

These animals are a little larger than crickets, but can also be stored.


Migratory grasshoppers are popular as feed animals for reptile keepers because they are easy to breed and are inexpensive to buy. They contain valuable proteins, vitamins and minerals. Migratory locusts freeze them just like the crickets and hand them to thawed wild birds.

Bee larvae

Bee larvae are a valuable all-year food and protein bomb for insectivores. You can ask beekeepers about drone brood and put the honeycomb with the larvae in the freezer. To feed the larvae, remove them from the frozen honeycomb - do not let the honeycomb thaw.
Then boil the drones in water and scare them off with cold water. You dry them, for example with kitchen paper, and freeze them again.

Wax moth larvae

Wax moths lay their eggs in bee nests, where the larvae of pollen residues and old cocoons develop. You can get them cheap all year round in the specialist trade for terrariums and in fishing shops.

Fly maggot

Live fly maggots provide an abundant source of protein.

Flour beetle larvae

Flour beetle larvae, the so-called mealworms, are suitable as feed for many bird species, preferably freshly skinned.

Buffalo worms

These "worms" are the larvae of the grain mold beetle. Their chitin shell is softer than mealworms, so birds can digest the animals better. They can already be bought frozen and can then be thawed.

Insect food

Insect feed in the zoo trade consists of dried insects and shrimps. It is less suitable for the breeding season of birds and should at least not be the only food for insectivores. You can enrich the insect food with Korvimin ZVT or Vitakalk, as well as with a vitamin B complex.

Year-round feeding

Berthold explains why it makes sense to feed all year round: “The energy requirement is highest in the summer months. The days are longest then, the birds most active, because they raise young. To do this, they fly up to 300 times a day. That costs energy, and it has to come from somewhere. ” (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Video: Bird Feeding Basics - How to Feed Birds (January 2022).