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Bird Feeding in London

Summary about safe bird feeding for non-English speakers:

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Feeding birds is for everyone

Feeding birds is a fun way to engage with nature. We believe that everyone should be able to enjoy feeding birds safely. This page explains what bird feeding is all about.

Did you know that providing birds with the wrong foods can make them sick? People and wildlife are put at risk if food is provided in large quantities or in inappropriate places. 

It is really important to only feed birds items that they can digest and get nutrients from. For example, unsalted seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables like peas are good to feed to birds. Please do not feed birds bread or other processed human foods. Feeding bread causes health problems for birds over time and creates a mess in the environment. Feeding birds food with a lot of salt or sugar can make them very sick.














Feeding birds by hand

If you choose to feed birds by hand, please do not provide more than a handful or two at once. Feeding too much can cause large numbers of animals to gather and cause conflict like animals fighting or becoming dependent on people to feed them. Remember to only provide food in safe spaces away from crowds and roads. Feeding near roads puts animals at risk of collisions with vehicles.

Be mindful of your surroundings before you start feeding birds. Are there other people around who could be disturbed? Are there dogs or cats nearby that could harm birds? It is best to feed birds in a quiet spot where there is vegetation nearby.

IMPORTANT NOTICE There is currently an outbreak of Avian Influenza is spreading among wild birds and poultry. For current guidance on feeding birds from authorities, please see here. It may be appropriate to pause bird feeding, especially if you have poultry living nearby. Please ensure that all bird feeders are washed thoroughly using the methods described below.

For help with identifying what kind of bird you saw, try using this tool by Birds Canada or the iNaturalist website or smartphone app.

Where to purchase bird-feeding supplies in London

Bird feed and other supplies can be sourced from the following local businesses:


Using a Bird Feeder

Birds visiting your feeders are essentially all using the same dishes for their meals! It is very important to keep feeders clean (i.e., free from bird faeces, fungal or bacterial growth) to ensure birds do not become sick or transmit pathogens.


Bird seed should not be allowed to sit in feeders for long stretches of time. Aim to clean out your feeders around once every two weeks, or more often during times of heavy use or during wet weather.


Look out for signs of infection at your feeders (see example below). If you spot a bird with crusty eyes or beaks, or a bird perched or on the ground and not moving, there may be contagious illness present such as Salmonella. If you spot signs of infection, please remove your feeders for a few days and sanitize them using the method described below. Outbreaks of bird diseases at feeders may be reported here.


How to sanitize your bird feeders: you may use a dishwasher or wash them by hand with vinegar or a bleach dilution (no more than 1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Disassemble the feeders and soak the parts that contain feed and come in contact with birds before scrubbing with a brush or sponge. Rinse feeders thoroughly and all them to dry completely before restocking. Learn more about feeder hygiene.

Feeding bread to birds causes health problems including damage to feathers

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A house finch with swollen, crusty eyes that developed conjunctivitis and was admitted to Salthaven. If you see a bird in this condition at your feeder, capture it and call a wildlife rehab (more info). Photo courtesy of Salthaven Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Centre.

Where to place a bird feeder

Birds visiting feeders are placed at elevated risk of colliding with untreated windows. If you feed birds, please consider treating your windows for bird safety. If windows near the bird feeders are untreated, bird feeders should be placed within 1.5 feet / half a meter of the windows to reduce the risk of birds colliding with windows and injuring themselves.

If you wish to deter squirrels or other mammals from your bird feeders, please do not apply grease on feeder poles. Grease may become attached to birds’ feathers and mammals’ fur and cause harm. Try using a pole baffle or squirrel-proof feeder instead, and place feeders away from other tall objects or surfaces that squirrels could use for leverage. Please do not provide foods that have capsaicin / spices mixed in to deter mammals. This practice is unnecessarily cruel and can also be harmful for birds.

Please keep in mind that bird feeders may also attract rodents like mice. You can prevent rodents from entering your home by conducting a perimeter check to look for openings where rodents may enter, such as cracks, fittings around pipes or where the walls meet the roof. An ultraviolet light may be useful for detecting rodent activity. See here for more information about bird friendly pest management.


When to feed

Birds generally do not need supplementary food during the warmer months. Feeding is most beneficial during the winter when natural food sources are in short supply.


If you start feeding birds in winter, you should continue to provide food until the end of the season. This is because overwintering birds may become dependent on your feeder as a primary food source. Leaving your feeder empty in the middle of winter could cause the birds depending on you to starve!


Consider replacing bird feeders during the summer months with plantings of native species including trees, shrubs, vines and wildflowers that produce fruits and seeds that will attract birds and insects that birds eat.

What to feed

The best way to feed wild birds is to provide foods that are naturally part of their diets. Over 95% of terrestrial bird species depend on protein-rich insects as part of their life cycle, such as feeding to their young. As insects populations are declining, it is important to create more habitat for insects and birds by planting native species that insects can use for food and to reproduce. Learn more about landscaping for birds.

Many birds have adapted to eat seeds provided by humans. Choosing a high-quality seed mix is important. Some seed mixes contain “filler” that some species of birds will not consume, leading to waste and mess. Some species of birds have different preferences for specific types of seeds and other offerings. See All About Birds: Feeding Birds: A Quick Guide To Seed Types for recommendations of seed mixes for attracting specific bird species.


For attracting hummingbirds, please do not use store-bought nectar containing dye. Hummingbird nectar can be prepared at home easily using granulated sugar and boiled water (see here for recipe). Change sugar water at least every 3 to 5 days to prevent mold and deadly fermentation, or more frequently during hot weather.


For attracting orioles, many people use oranges and other citrus. Grape jelly may also be used, although this is not a natural part of the birds’ diets and should be fed in moderation. Discard fresh offerings within 2 days to prevent accumulation of mould and bacteria.


Who to feed: London’s feeder bird species

A variety of birds may visit your feeders in London at different times of the year. Below is a list of common species. Note that London is also home to many kinds of birds that do not eat seeds and will be unlikely to visit your feeders. For attracting birds that are insectivorous like warblers, consider planting native species in your yard to increase local insect abundance. More information about the preferred diets and feeder types for each species is available from Project Feederwatch.

Common birds that visit feeders in London include:

  • Northern cardinal

  • Blue jay

  • Black-capped chickadee

  • Mourning dove

  • American goldfinch

  • American robin

  • Pine siskin

  • Rose finch 

  • House finch 

  • Purple finch 

  • Rose-breasted grosbeak 

  • Common grackle 

  • Ruby-throated hummingbird 

  • Baltimore orioles

  • Downy woodpecker 

  • Yellow-bellied sapsucker 

  • Hairy woodpecker 

  • Red-bellied woodpecker 

  • Pileated woodpecker

  • Tufted titmouse 

  • Dark-eyed junco

  • Chipping sparrow

  • Red-breasted nuthatch

  • White-breasted nuthatch

  • Eastern towhee

  • House sparrow

  • European starling

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