Posted: 27/06/2013 at 17:06
Garden Bird Supplies were my supplier, and have always been good to me, but I switched to the RSPB for most foods and livefoods.co.uk for the mealworms (in 2kg boxes!) The RSPB send me a special offer every week, usually for something of which I just got a month's supply.
Peanuts: forget it. The woodpecker is the only bird interested in peanuts.
Treat pellets with insects, aka buggy nibbles: top food in winter. Fill a peanut feeder with this stuff and watch it get mobbed.
Treat pellets with berries, aka fruit nibbles: second or third choice. They really prefer the bugs.
Seed mix: everyone's got a favourite. I put out the feeder mix with dreid mealworms and the starlings threw the lot on the floor to get at the mealworms. I put out the feeder mix without the mealworms and the finches threw the lot on the floor to get at the sunflower hearts. Currently, I have the "feeder mix extra" and it gets cleaned up. The least popular bit is the little, reddish balls. They go, though.
Live mealworms: currently everybody's number one food. If you want a bird to land on your hands for food, this is the food to use. Even the finches are ignoring seed to hunt these nutrient-rich wrigglers. This is how you feed baby birds. Smaller ones are more expensive, and the birds are quite capable of dismembering a large one to feed it to their babies a chunk at a time.
Treat blocks aka cakes: the same as nibbles, but they charge VAT on the cakes. The big cube of a "squirrel-resistant" feeder is also starling-resistant, which the oval one isn't, so if you want other birds to have a chance, use the cube one ... or use one of each.
I did an experiment with treat blocks, cutting up blocks from the local fruit shop, the supermarket, Garden Bird, the RSPB and a big DIY place and putting them all out in the feeder together, in different patterns. No matter how I arranged them, the birds would find the GB and RSPB blocks and demolish them. They went through three whole blocks from those suppliers before they'd bothered to eat even a tenth of anyone else's block.
Fat balls? Nobody was interested. Nothing wanted them.
Footnote: feeder cages! I got the barrel-style cages from GB, and the squirrels lifted the tops off and went down inside the tubes to get at the food! This wrecked the lids and the mesh tube. Also, the rain tended to get in and flood them, so the bottom of the plastic tube was always jamming up with soggy, rotting seed mix. I made porches for them, and very elegant little porches they were too, but between big birds, squirrels and a few windy days they got smashed off. I also had to put wire around the bases to stop the squirrel hanging off the bottom of the mesh and reaching in to sweep food to the edges.
Now, instead, I have Homebase feeders with bell-jar cages and plastic cone bases. They can be screwed on either way up. On the seed mix feeder, I have it set to shed the mix over the sides onto the ground. Yes, this creates a patch of sunflower seed husk, but that's part of the price of having bird feeders. On the "peanut" feeders (full of treat pellets with a few peanuts on top that have been there all year) I have the bases "dish" way up, to avoid spilling such good food on the ground where rats and pigeons can get it. There is a slight drawback to this: the wire hoop is barely long enough, so getting it on and off the hook is a bit fiddly. Obvious answer would be an S-hook, but so far I've coped with it being fiddly.
A rat did find its way into one. It even managed to get back out after I startled it, too ... but the second time I startled it I startled it by blowing a 4.5mm hole through it from left kidney to right shoulder, so it didn't get very far.