Feeding the birds – good or bad?

If you do not feed the birds, nothing bad will happen to them


SÖÖKLA. Alusta lindude toitmisega alles siis, on saabunud püsiv talvekülm. Foto autor: Tarvo Tiivits
A DINER. Do not start feeding the birds before the winter has fully arrived. By: Tarvo Tiivits

Should you feed birds during winter and if yes, how to do it properly? What should you feed the birds?


First of all, keep in mind that if you do not feed the birds, nothing bad will happen to them. The birds that winter here have adapted to the Estonian climate and are able to cope on their own in the winter, while additional feeding just helps many species survive the winter more easily. Additionally, observing what is going on in the bird feeders will allow bird lovers of all ages to get to know the bird species better and provide them with great emotions.


You should start the feeding when the permanent cold and/or snow cover have arrived. It is not wise to start feeding the birds too early in the autumn, as this may attract migratory birds to stay in Estonia, also feeding waterfowl is prohibited all year round.


The rule is that once you have started feeding the birds, you should continue doing that throughout the winter – as the abundance of food attracts many birds, many of them (especially smaller tits) may have difficulty obtaining the food from the wild. Feeding should be stopped after the permanent frosts have ended, i.e. in late March or early April.


What to feed birds?

  • The classic unflavoured so-called tit lard is a very good choice and is suitable for many bird species.
  • Various seeds are also great – the common sunflower seeds are loved by most garden birds we know.
  • It is also worth offering cereals – oatmeal, millet, but certainly not rice or pearl barley, because they are too hard to crush with a beak.
  • The shops sell fat balls and seed mixtures specially designed for garden birds. Fat balls without a net should be preferred, as birds may get their feet caught in the net, and a metal fat ball holder should be used.
  • Some species also enjoy fruit and vegetables.

PLEASE NOTE! Under no circumstances should you feed flavoured (salty or spicy) or spoiled food to birds. Neither should you offer the birds bread.


Feeding waterfowl is prohibited all year round. The migration of waterfowl to the southern wintering areas begins when the water bodies begin to freeze – an adaptation that has developed over the millennia, which man tends to interfere with when feeding waterfowl bread. Unfortunately, mallards and mute swans are happy to eat this food, but as the winter progresses and water bodies freeze, the birds will face great difficulties due to food shortage.


Bread does not contain anything useful for waterfowl and impairs their digestion. For example, a black swan who lived on the Kadriorg Pond died a few years ago, because people kept offering the bird bread despite prohibitory signs [1]. Offering unsuitable and one-sided food to waterfowl during the spring nesting season could even lead to the malformations of the chicks.


 If you notice that birds may be in trouble, please call the state helpline at 1247.



Last modified: 17.01.2022



[1] https://www.ohtuleht.ee/673942/musta-luige-viimne-lend-ulesootmise-tottu-jaab-kadrioru-luigetiik-tanavu-luigepaarita