With so much conflicting advice, it can be hard for bird lovers to navigate what you can and can't feed wild birds and garden birds. Fear not, we are on hand to provide information on what you can safely feed birds in order to support a balanced diet.
In a report published in 2021, 70 species of birds were placed on the red list of greatest conservation report. With this number nearly doubling compared to the report published in 1996, we must all do our bit to help care for and support the wild birds in the UK. Offering birds a safe and protected space with easy access to food and water is a great way to help look after the UK bird population whilst also enjoying the beautiful sights birds provide.
So, can birds eat porridge oats?
The answer to the big question, can birds eat porridge oats! Birds love oats and they are an incredibly healthy source of nutrients for birds when eaten in addition to seeds. Whilst porridge oats can be given to birds if they are raw, cooked porridge oats can not as they are not safe for birds to eat and could do long-term damage to the health of the bird. Uncooked oats do make for a great bird food.
Most birds love raw oats in addition to their natural diet and you can pop uncooked porridge oats out for garden birds as part of ground feeding or on bird feeders including a bird table. By offering uncooked oats for birds to eat both in a bird feeder and on the ground, you will attract a variety of bird species including ground feeding birds, especially blackbirds.
If you do feed oats to the bird species visiting your gardens, it's important to ensure they are not cooked oats as the cooked oats can harm the birds and are not safe to use as bird food. Cooked porridge oats can be hard and damage a bird's beak so should be avoided at all costs.
The good news is, you don't even have to prepare porridge oats or cook oats. You can simply scatter them outside and leave the birds to enjoy as part of their varied diet. They can also make a great addition in or on your bird feeder.
What other types of oats can you feed garden and wild birds?
Oats are slow-release carbohydrates and birds eat oats for a much needed energy boost in the winter months when food is harder to find in the wild.
Most oats that are used to make porridge or oatmeal are also safe and have a good nutritional value for garden birds, the important thing to remember is that they must not be cooked and must be raw. Rolled oats, steel-cut oats, jumbo oats, and pinhead oats are all safe and healthy for wild birds to enjoy.
What else can I feed garden birds?
You've probably seen birds eat bread and picking up the leftovers from picnics or kitchen scraps. Whilst these foods are fine in moderation, it's important not to over-do it and to offer birds a varied diet.
During the colder winter months, birds like a fatty treat such as homemade fat balls or suet cake. You can either make these yourself or you can purchase fat balls for birds here. Another great source of energy for wild birds is dried fruit. Dried fruits including raisins are great for birds to chomp on and can be mixed in with other seeds and dried mealworms in a seed feeder for a nutritious bird-friendly meal.
In the summer months, birds need more protein and will look for food sources that contain protein to eat. Feed birds crushed or chopped nuts as well as barley grains mixed with bird seeds to offer a good level of protein for birds to achieve the balanced diet they need to stay healthy all year round.
Birds need water to survive for both bathing and drinking. Leave a saucer out or fill a standing bird table with some luke warm water in to provide this for birds, particularly in the colder months when ponds and lakes may be frozen over. Whilst it may seem that milk or milk powder could be a good substitute for water, this should not be given to birds. Birds are intolerant to lactose and therefore unable to properly digest milk which could do more harm than good. Instead, stick to water.
Uncooked Porridge Oats
We have already mentioned this above, but please do not let birds eat oats that are cooked - uncooked only! Raw porridge oats will be eaten right off the ground or bird feeder.
Whether you're enticing birds into your garden with porridge oats, dried mealworms, fat balls or mixed seeds, as long as you are opting for foods that are safe for birds to eat, you're guaranteed to attract lots of feathered friends to your garden.
If you'd like to attract other wildlife include hedgehogs and frogs to your garden, read our top 10 tips here (insert link to blog post).
What bird species would you most like to welcome to your garden?