Our Standards

Raising the standard

The distinctive BSA logo is an endorsement of the high-quality birdcare product you’re buying – and the specialist company that supplies it.

Every BSA member company complies with our compulsory standards  and guidelines that you can read here.

Wherever you see the BSA logo, you can buy with confidence that you’re choosing wholesome foods and carefully-designed products that have been created with birds’ welfare in mind. Nothing’s better for birds – or better value for you.

1. Compulsory Standards for Peanuts

All BSA members must operate to an aflatoxin content level of ‘nil detectable’ using the sampling and testing procedure detailed below. In general, appearance must be good in terms of minimal content of splits, wrinkles and discolouration. Mould should not be present.

Sampling and Testing

All peanut samples requiring testing for aflatoxins should be forwarded to Eurofins Scientific Ltd, 47-69 Woodside Business Park, Shore Road, Birkenhead, CH41 1EP (Tel: 0151 647 9175) where an account for the BSA is held.

Members must independently batch test each container (c. 18 tonnes) on receipt as follows:

  • Eight sacks (50kg) or sixteen sacks (25kg) must be selected at random from each consignment.
  • A sample of 500g (if from a 50kg sack) or 250g (if from a 25kg sack) should be taken from each sack and blended/ mixed into one 4kg bag.
  • This should then be split into two bags of equal weight, both marked with a label showing, batch reference number, date of receipt, year of crop, suppliers reference number, total weight of consignment, purchase order number and the delivery note number.
  • One sample is to be retained by BSA member for a minimum period of 18 months. The other is to be sent to an Independent Testing Laboratory.
  • Resultant certificate to be filed by member for a minimum period of 18 months.
  • BSA Standards Officer to be immediately notified in the event of any test result showing above ‘nil detectable’. Standards Officer will advise on further recommended action(s).

2. Compulsory Standards for Seed Mixes

Seed mixes must comprise the following minimum and maximum percentages:

Group 1

Minimum 20% (combined total):

  • Black Sunflower
  • Sunflower Hearts
  • Peanut Granules
  • Niger
  • Suet Pellets
  • High Protein Soft foods (minimum 16%) & crumbles

Group 2

Maximum 80% (combined total):

  • Canary
  • Millet – red/white/yellow/panicum/jap/hulled
  • Split/cut Maize
  • Dari (also known as milo & sorghum)
  • Pinhead Oatmeal
  • Small Striped Sunflower
  • Safflower
  • Hempseed

Group 3

Maximum 20% (combined total):

  • Medium Striped Sunflower
  • White Sunflower
  • Red Rape
  • Linseed
  • Mawseed
  • Gold of Pleasure
  • Sesame
  • Lettuce
  • Grass seeds
  • Buckwheat (hulled & whole)
  • Dried Fruits
  • Dried Crustacean (ie. Gammarus)
  • Dried Insects (ie. Waterfly)
  • Elderberries
  • Juniper Berries
  • Mountain Ash Berries
  • Rosehip
  • Dried Crickets
  • Whole Oats

Group 4

Maximum 60% (combined total):

  • Wheat
  • Naked Oats
  • Groats
  • Flaked Naked Oats
  • Flaked Wheat
  • Flaked Maize
  • Jumbo Oats

Group 5

Maximum 5% (combined total):

  • Grit (coral & oystershell)
  • Black Rape/Mustard
  • Flavourings

Nil Allowable

The following ingredients are not permitted in mixtures displaying the BSA logo:

  • Whole Peanuts
  • Biscuit
  • Extruded Dried Pellets (eg. Dried biscuit)
  • Seasoned/spiced or salted ingredients
  • Large Striped Sunflower
  • Lentils
  • Whole Pulses
  • Vetch
  • Whole Maize
  • Flaked Barley
  • Dried Rice
  • Split Peas
  • Barley

Straights

The following straights are considered as valuable high energy food sources and as such can carry the BSA logo with the recommendation that these feeds can be fed as a straight from an appropriate feeder or feeding station.

  • Black Sunflower
  • Sunflower Hearts
  • Peanut Granules
  • Niger
  • Live foods
  • Dried Mealworm

Miscellaneous

No seasoned, salted or spiced ingredients should be presented for wild bird consumption.

3. Compulsory Standards for Suet

Suet-based products are rapidly growing in popularity in the UK as a wild bird food, providing as they do a high energy source during colder weather conditions. Uptake by garden birds is extremely good at these times.

The following list describes the types of product that would fall into the “suet” category, but it is by no means exhaustive:

  • Fat Balls
  • Square/Rectangular Cakes
  • Pelletised Suet
  • Suet-filled half or whole coconuts
  • Suet in cylindrical shapes
  • Suet bound around wooden or plastic stems/sticks
  • All of the above blended with nuts, seeds, fruits, insects or a combination/combinations of these additives.

The BSA has adopted the following standards:

  • Suet should be derived from animals that have received ante and post mortem examination by veterinary officers and found to be fit for human consumption.
  • All suet should be processed at a fully licensed and approved EU or USA abattoir.
  • Any suet products that are blended with peanuts, either in whole or granular from, must use peanuts that contain a nil detectable aflatoxin level.

4. Compulsory Standards for Other Foods

All other feeds, seeds and suet-based products must be free from mould, vermin traces, infestation or other contaminants.

5. Bird Feeders

In summary, bird feeders should be efficient at dispensing food to the target species without putting them in any danger and without wasting the food through spillage or soiling.

Bird feeders should be simple to clean on a regular basis. Good hygiene at the point of feeding garden birds is essential and it must be possible for the feeder to be cleaned efficiently to remove food that has dropped out of reach of the birds or which has become stuck or wedged in the feeder.

Care must be taken in labelling feeders as to their ability to keep squirrels at bay. The term “squirrel proof” must only be used where the feeder has been designed to stop squirrels feeding from the feeder and where that feeder cannot be significantly damaged by a squirrel in its attempts to reach the food in the feeder. “Squirrel resistant” is a difficult term to define and should be avoided unless explained in detail ie ‘this feeder will resist destruction by a squirrels teeth but will not stop a squirrel taking food’ or similar. Under no circumstances can a feeder manufactured primarily of plastic, wood or a similar material be called “squirrel resistant” or “squirrel proof”.

Compulsory Standards for Bird Feeders

  • Avoid sharp edges.
  • Ensure that feeding points (ports) are carefully designed to minimise the risk of a bird being caught.
  • Drainage holes should be included in the base of feeders.
  • Information should be included about the importance of maintaining cleanliness and good hygiene.

Non-Compulsory Guidelines for Bird Tables

  • Feeding ports should be offset so that a higher bird is unlikely to defecate on one feeding lower down.
  • Feeding ports should be designed to restrict the loss or spillage of food when the feeder swings in the wind.
  • Feeders should contain a raised or angled base to deliver the maximum amount of food to the birds whilst minimising the amount of residual food that cannot be accessed and which, as a consequence, rots and becomes unhygienic.
  • Seed feeders need to be of sufficient diameter to allow foods to descend easily.
  • The bottom of any feeding tube should be designed to push the food to the side of the feeder where the birds can easily reach it.
  • Seed trays should be designed to shed or drain rainwater.
  • Peanut feeders should not allow birds to take away whole nuts or large parts of nuts since this may cause problems in the breeding season (April to September). Where this is unavoidable, a warning must be printed on the packaging.
  • Feeders should be designed so that they can be dismantled for cleaning and should be made from materials which will not be damaged by normal cleaning methods.
  • Spiral feeders which might be extended by the weight of a starling should be avoided as other birds may become trapped. These feeders should only be supplied if they have a lid or device to stop birds gaining access to the feed from the top of the feeder.
  • Squirrel-proofed feeders which store food within a protected area must be designed in such a way that birds can escape from the protected area easily, rapidly and from several directions.
  • Information should be included about the importance of maintaining cleanliness and good hygiene.

6. Bird Tables

Bird tables should be cleaned on a regular basis. Good hygiene at the point of feeding garden birds is essential and it must be possible for the bird table to be cleaned efficiently to remove food that has become stuck or wedged in any way in the table.

Compulsory Standards for Bird Tables

  • The table must be open on all four sides (unless it is designed to be fixed to a tree or wall) to allow birds to see predators and to escape easily.
  • An edge or rim helps to keep the food on the table but must have breaks in it to allow rainwater to drain away quickly and facilitate the simple sweeping of detritus from the feeding area surface. Adequate sized drainage holes should also be included in the floor of the table for drainage.
  • Bird tables must be sold with siting instructions which recommend a position near to cover into which birds can escape from predators, but which is far enough away from trees and fences from which cats can pounce.
  • A roof should overlap the entire feeding surface in order that the food is kept as dry as possible.
  • Information must be included about the importance of maintaining cleanliness and good hygiene.
  • Under no circumstances should a bird table incorporate a nest box. The nesting birds come into conflict with the feeding ones.

Non-Compulsory Guidelines for Bird Tables

  • Ensure that the feeding surface is as smooth as possible: this reduces the amount of food particles, dust and other debris that can become trapped, and makes it easier to clean.
  • Incorporating a hopper for the bird food, rather than letting it lie loose on the table, will reduce contamination by droppings.
  • It is beneficial if the bird table can be easily moved since food falling from the table can become contaminated and a source of disease. For this reason and for the protection of ground feeding birds, the bird table should be moved frequently. As with bird feeders, it is best if the table is moved frequently – at least once a week.
  • The minimum height for the feeding platform should be 1.5 metres above the ground
  • Hooks can be included for hanging bird feeders in order to attract the widest range of species, but these should not be at a height that invites birds to eat at a level that will make predation by cats simple.
  • A smooth pole for mounting the table will help to discourage rats and cats.

7. Nest Boxes

Compulsory Standards for Nest Boxes

  • Always use insulating materials such as wood of at least 15mm thickness. Do not use thin wood, poor quality plywood or corrugated cardboard. Exterior quality or marine quality plywood of the correct thickness are acceptable. Always use good quality materials with good insulation properties that are unlikely to lead to condensation problems inside the box. Birds may occupy boxes made from unsuitable materials if no other nest sites are available but they are unlikely to be successful.
  • The bottom edge of the entrance hole should be at least 120mm above the floor level of the nest box to minimise the risk of predation. The base of the nest box must allow for the drainage of moisture from the box.
  • Never fit a perch – the birds do not need it and it invites and assists predators.
  • Never incorporate a nest box in a bird table. The nesting birds come into conflict with the feeding ones.
  • Never use spirit based, persistent timber treatments.
  • Ensure that customers receive sensible siting and fixing instructions.

Non-Compulsory Guidelines for Nest Boxes

  • The ideal thickness of wood to use is 19mm.
  • It is best to use nails or screws rather than use glue which will make the box too airtight and encourage condensation.
  • As a general rule boxes should not have holes of less than 32 mm. The vast majority of customers will be pleased to have any birds in their box so it is counterproductive to exclude the larger Great Tits by having a smaller hole.
  • If you are targeting a known population of specific garden birds, you should be aware that Blue Tits, Marsh Tits and Coal Tits ideally like 25mm holes, whilst Great Tits prefer 28mm holes. Larger than 32mm holes can facilitate entry by predators. These include other birds such as woodpeckers, rats and squirrels.
  • Ensure that the internal floor area of the box is at least 20 square inches (130 square centimetres) or, better still, 25 square inches (160 square centimetres). It has been shown that tits will lay reduced clutches in smaller boxes.
  • If the box is to be promoted as being suitable for sparrows, the physical dimensions need to be increased by 25% and the entrance hole can be as large as 35mm. Tree sparrows are generally smaller than house sparrows and can cope with a minimum of a 28mm hole whilst house sparrows prefer a minimum of a 32mm hole.
  • Try to include a waterproof but opening lid. This allows cleaning in the autumn. In addition, the educational and general interest of seeing what is happening inside is valuable for conservation and significant numbers of young birds from boxes are ringed and recorded.
  • It is best not to use any kind of timber treatment but, if you do, use water based, plant-friendly chemicals and treat the whole box.
  • The best method for fixing to a living tree is an aluminium nail. Steel or brass fixings may represent a danger to future chain-saw operators.
  • If possible design the box so that the back is all in one piece. This ensures that the box does not leak if water runs down the object to which it is fixed.
  • It is preferable to include a brief synopsis of what might happen if the box is occupied.

We recommend that individuals or companies considering the manufacture of nest boxes refer to the BTO Nestbox Guide available from the BTO at the Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU or call 01842 750050 or visit www.bto.org . This offers advice on building specific nest boxes for a wide variety of UK garden birds including larger ones like owls.

8. Hygiene

Non-Compulsory Guidelines for Hygiene

  • Over the past few years it has become apparent that hygiene standards around activities relating to garden birds need to be improved. It is possible that a large number of premature deaths of garden birds are hygiene related, where birds eat old and rotting food, some of which may be contaminated. So cleaning feeders and bird tables is essential and must be carried out regularly. We recommend this happens at least once a week, using a simple washing up liquid based cleaner, followed by adequate rinsing in clean water and drying with a regularly washed tea towel or some kitchen roll. The feeders should be allowed to dry thoroughly before further food is added to them for the birds. We recommend that you clean all garden bird equipment outdoors, wear rubber or similar gloves and wash your hands thoroughly in hot soapy water afterwards.

9. Water

Non-Compulsory Guidelines for Water

It is essential that birds have an adequate supply of clean, fresh water to drink and for feather care. Some small garden birds only need to lose 10% of their water content to die from dehydration. BSA members should wherever possible, include this information on their product packaging to flag up the need for regular fresh water ‘top ups’ in the garden to help birds survive especially in colder weather when much if not all of the available water may freeze.

10. Higher Voluntary “Gold” Standard for Seed Mixes

The BSA has recognised that there can be a vast difference in nutritional values within the parameters of its standards for seed mixtures. The minimum standard has become a benchmark for the industry and many companies can still not get up to this standard proving that the BSA logo is a quality mark representing better value for the consumer and better nutritional value for the birds.

However, BSA members go even further and a high proportion of the mixes they offer come from Group 1 of our preferred foods table. In recognition of this the BSA has decided to award an HVS (Higher Voluntary Standard) to those mixtures that contain a minimum of 75% of foods from Group 1 and at least one other ingredient from groups 1, 2 or 3. This will give a clear indication that the mixture provides an even higher feed value benefit.

Feed mixes meeting this new HVS will be able to carry a new logo, that clearly associates it with the BSA logo and standards but offers a visual differentiation that clearly says “higher standard”.

Group 1

Minimum 75% (combined total):

  • Non-UK grown Black Sunflower
  • Sunflower Hearts
  • Peanut granules
  • Niger
  • Suet Pellets
  • High Protein Softfoods (minimum 16% protein)
  • Dried mealworms

Group 2

Maximum 25% (combined total):

  • Canary
  • Millet – red/white/yellow/panicum/jap/hulled
  • Split/cut maize
  • Dari
  • Pinhead Oatmeal
  • Small Striped Sunflower
  • Safflower
  • Hempseed

Group 3

Maximum 10% (combined total):

  • UK grown Black Sunflower
  • Medium Striped Sunflower
  • White Sunflower
  • Red Rape
  • Linseed
  • Mawseed
  • Gold of Pleasure
  • Sesame
  • Lettuce
  • Grass Seeds
  • Buckwheat ( hulled and whole)
  • Dried Fruits
  • Dried Crustacean ( i.e. Gammarus)
  • Dried Insects ( i.e. waterfly)
  • Elderberries
  • Juniper Berries
  • Mountain Ash Berries
  • Rosehip
  • Dried Cricket