How to make bird seed cleaner

Bird feeders and tit balls

NABU gives tips on bird feeding

Feeding birds in winter has a long tradition not only in Germany. It is popular with many bird friends and has been anchored in our association from the very beginning. The animals can be observed up close at feeding stations. Feeding is not only an experience of nature, but also provides knowledge of the species. This is especially true for children and adolescents, who have less and less opportunity for their own observations and experiences in nature. Most of the committed conservationists started out as enthusiastic observers at the winter bird feeder.


NABU therefore recommends bird feeding as a unique opportunity to experience nature and to educate yourself about the environment. At the same time, bird feeding should not be confused with effective protection of endangered bird species, as it is almost exclusively less endangered species that benefit from it, which have been endowed by nature in such a way that their populations are not permanently reduced even by cold winters. NABU says what to look out for in order to ensure the benefits for the birds and to enjoy bird feeding.


Just as important: nesting aids for titmice & Co.

Feed properly - this is how it works:

Danger: Special restrictions on boy feeding time (April to July): The usual winter bird food can be harmful for young birds, which are mostly naturally fed exclusively with fresh, protein-rich insects by their parents in the first few weeks. Young birds can choke on large peanut fragments or whole sunflower seeds. High-fat food is difficult for them to digest. Therefore, the following applies for this time: No fatty food, no peanuts (whole or broken) and, if possible, no sunflower seeds, instead the smallest possible (low-fat) seeds from local wild herbs, insect food fresh or frozen, preferably not dried.


  1. In principle, bird feeding is recommended from an environmental educational point of view, especially in winter. Then significantly more birds come to the feeding station, and at low temperatures it is easier to ensure the necessary hygiene. This prevents the transmission of salmonella to the animals. Typically, you feed in winter from November to the end of February. When there is frost or snow, a particularly large number of birds will take up the offer.
    When feeding or offering drinking and bathing water in the summer there is a risk of the birds becoming infected with pathogens such as trichomonads, which can infect green finches in particular in large numbers. Hygiene measures are of little help against the disease, which is fatal in all cases. You should therefore stop any summer feedings immediately until the next winter, should you find sick or dead birds.
  2. Choose feed dispensers (feed silos) where the animals cannot run around in the feed and contaminate it with feces. This way you will minimize the transmission and spread of pathogens. In addition, the food does not spoil in it. Feed dispensers must be built and installed in such a way that the feed cannot get soaked even in strong wind, snow and rain, as it would otherwise spoil or freeze. Suitable feed silos are "maintenance-free". Here you can offer food for a longer period of time. They usually only need to be cleaned before and after the winter season.
  3. If you still use conventional bird feeders, then clean them regularly with hot water and only add a little food every day. For reasons of hygiene, you should wear gloves when cleaning.
  4. What to do with the feed dispenser? Place the food dispenser in a clear place so that no cats sneak up and you can watch the birds well at the same time. At a reasonable distance, however, trees or bushes should, if possible, provide cover in the event of sparrow attacks. Make sure that nearby panes of glass do not become deadly traps for the birds. Avoid looking through or reflecting in your windows. Stick any stickers or patterns on dangerous panes on the outside. Alternatively, feeding places can also be attached directly to window panes, since collisions are not very dangerous here on the short approach routes.
  5. Which feed is best? Sunflower seeds are suitable as basic feed, which in case of doubt is eaten by almost all species. With unpeeled kernels, there is more waste, but the birds stay longer at their feeding place. Outdoor feed mixes also contain other seeds of different sizes that are preferred by different species.
    The most common Grain eater at your feeding place are tits, finches and sparrows. We also hibernate with us Soft food eater such as robins, dunnock, blackbirds, field thrushes or wren. For them you can offer raisins, fruit, oatmeal and bran close to the ground. It is important to ensure that this food does not spoil. There are special floor feed dispensers that are particularly suitable for this.
    Tits in particular also love mixtures of fat and seeds, which you can make yourself or buy as tit dumplings. Attention: When buying meat balls and similar products, make sure that they are not wrapped in plastic nets, as is unfortunately often the case. Birds can get their legs entangled in it and seriously injure themselves. Under no circumstances should you offer salty foods such as bacon or boiled potatoes. Bread is also not recommended as it swells in birds' stomachs and spoils quickly.
    Cheap birdseed is usually stretched with large proportions of wheat grains. These are only eaten by the birds when all the other seeds have been used up, otherwise they are removed from the feeding place. This therefore usually leads to large amounts of unused bird food on the ground. In addition, cheap birdseed does not guarantee that the birdseed does not spread any invasive plant species, such as ragweed, which is highly allergenic. So it pays to use higher quality birdseed.
  6. Birdseed on the ground can attract rats. If you want to avoid this, you must not spread any food on the ground and put suitable collecting plates under the feed columns that are not accessible to rats, or at least remove leftover feed under the feed columns on a daily basis. If that is not enough and the rats presumably live mainly on birdseed, the feeding would have to be stopped.
  7. Birdseed in the garden, wasteland elsewhere? Also, keep in mind that bird seed needs to be grown somewhere. Usually this happens in the context of conventional agriculture, which today hardly offers suitable habitat for our endangered agricultural bird species. Therefore, it makes sense to buy organically grown bird seed. Although it is no better than anything else for the garden birds, it offers the birds in the growing area a better habitat. For the same reason, it makes sense to offer as many natural food sources as possible for the birds in your own garden through a nature-friendly design. Then you have to feed less with feed that is produced elsewhere in intensive farming that is not very suitable for birds.

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Background information

Observe and identify birds