How to attract birds to your garden
There is nothing more stress-relieving than sitting at a window watching the antics of our feathered friends as they forage for food, preen their feathers or chatter among themselves. Birds don’t have to have a garden in which to make a happy home.
It's enjoyable birdwatching and attracting birds into your garden is easy, if you can meet a handful of primary needs they can become regular visitors, whether you have a window box, a yard or an acre of land.
Birds need to have three basic things to thrive: food, water and shelter, if you can provide at least one of these then the environment will be attractive to birds.
Attract Birds With Food
There is a huge variety of bird food and seed mixes available. Each food will attract different species of wild bird so it's a good idea to have different bird foods in your garden to attract as many as possible.
While bird food is specifically designed to be nutritious and attractive to birds, you can recycle household scraps to bring birds into your garden too:
- Bread crumbs
- Finely chopped unsmoked bacon
- Dried fruits such as raisins and sultanas
- Leftover pastry
- Cooked potatoes
Just remember that the food you put out won’t only be tempting to birds, but domestic pets and other wildlife too. If you're intending for it to be just for the birds, ensure that they are either put into a suitable feeder or at height & distance that other animals will not be able to reach.
- Robins love mealworms, suet balls and cheese.
- Blue Tits love (unsalted) peanuts, mealworms and sunflower seeds.
- Blackbirds love tinned dog food(!), sultanas and rolled oats.
Once you start leaving food out for birds, they will soon get into the habit of frequenting your restaurant and so it is advised that you try to avoid going long periods without refreshing the food supply. In addition, it is recommended that you feed birds all year round, not just in the winter. As a general rule leave high-fat foods out in Autumn/Winter and high protein foods in spring.
If you have a larger garden, you can attract birds by planting fruit bushes such as raspberry, blackberry, elderberry or holly, or a combination of all four to provide year-round berries, which birds love. Also, encourage lots of insects to your garden for the birds to feed on. You can do this by controlling pesticides you use on your garden to give the birds the opportunity to control the ‘pests’ for you.
Use The Right Bird Feeder & Position It Correctly
Just as there is a lot of different bird food available, there is an equal amount of bird feeders to suit the particular habits & behaviours of birds. Bird tables, hanging feeders, dining stations mealworm feeders, suet feeders, ground feeders and even a window feeders for those living in a high rise apartment block. What feeder you choose to use, will determine the species of bird you'll attract to your garden. For example, Chaffinches will frequent ground feeders and bird tables, whilst Goldfinches like a hanging feeder.
If you have squirrels in the neighbourhood, it's wise to invest in squirrel-proof feeders so that you can be sure it’s the birds that benefit from your restaurant.
Ensure that whatever feeder you use, it is kept clean and dry. Remove any old or mouldy feed on a daily basis, this will help to reduce the chance of causing any illness in the birds. You can buy safe detergents to clean feeders and reduce the risk of Salmonella and Bird Flu.
How you position feeders and food in your garden will also determine the number of birds you attract. Birds will naturally feed in safe areas, away from predators such as cats or foxes. Ensure feeder is well away from hedges, fences, trees and sheds, which will enable predators to strike.
Birds Need Water Too
Birds need to have a good supply of fresh, clean water, to use for drinking as well as cleaning. Rainwater is ideal and can be collected from water ****. However, you need to change the water regularly and clean the birdbath to get rid of any algae from forming. In very cold weather, keep water supplies free from ice by using a special, bird-friendly anti-freeze
Provide Birds With Shelter
Finally, you can encourage birds to your garden by providing a safe place for them to roost and nest. Hedges and trees provide beautiful, natural shelter with foliage camouflaging the roosts and reducing the risk of other animals, domestic or wild, from hunting or scaring the birds. If you have less space, you could add a bird box to a wall or patch of ground in a quiet area with no danger of squirrels, cats or rats from getting onto/into them.
Robins have even been known to build a nest in an old wellie boot!
How have you attracted birds to your garden? Have you made your own suet balls and would like to share the recipe? We’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions, on how to bring more feathered friends to your neighbourhood.