Providing birds with food is a great way to attract more feathered friends in to your garden. There are lots of different types of bird feeder you can choose from: a bird table, a seed feeder and a peanut feeder. The right one for you depends on which types of birds you want to attract to your garden – the more variety the better.
A bird table will bring starlings, wood pigeons and doves to your garden. Make sure that your table has a roof to stop the food getting wet – planting a thorny bush underneath will help stop cats from reaching the birds. Hanging a seed feeder in a bush or tree will attract finches, tits, and robins. Peanuts are the favourite of woodpeckers, blue tits and crows. If you find squirrels are devouring your supply of peanuts or destroying the feeder, you can buy special squirrel-proof versions (although you may find the squirrels will still spend hours trying to get at the food).
There are several nasty diseases that birds can catch from dirty feeders so make sure to clean them regularly and move bird tables and feeders every couple of weeks so that diseases don’t build up on the ground underneath them.
Providing clean water for birds all year round is just as important as providing food. Birds need clean water to rehydrate – and they like to keep their feathers clean, too. Birds usually need to drink water twice daily, and birds who eat seeds need water more regularly because of their dry diet. Remember to clean out and refill the water in your bird bath regularly. The RSPB website has useful information on how to keep bird baths and feeders clean and sells materials to help you keep everything hygienic.
Nest boxes provide birds with a safe place to breed and raise their young. Pick a quiet location for your nest box, which is out of direct sunlight to keep the box cool.
Larger birds, such as woodpeckers and starlings, require a large nesting box with a small hole on the front. Small birds including tits and sparrows prefer small boxes. If you’re hoping for a robin to nest in your garden, you’ll need an open-fronted box. All nest boxes should be made out of wood, which should be at least 15mm in thickness to keep the temperature inside more even.
Squirrels can gnaw their way in to nest boxes to get at the eggs or chicks. If this is the case, you can buy special metal guards to fix around the holes to stop them being chewed. Again, details are on the RSPB website or you can talk to staff at your local garden centre.
Planting a range of different flowers and bushes will provide your birds with natural shelter and food. For thrushes, goldfinches and sparrows, make sure you have plenty of holly, honeysuckle and rowan on offer. Goldfinches and sparrows will flock for teasel, and sunflower seeds are the well-known favourite of long-tailed tits and finches. Just remember not to be too tidy in the autumn, as many weeds and garden plants have seeds that provide a valuable source of winter food, and old stems can provide a home for things like aphids and spiders that also offer a nutritious snack for birds in the cold winter months.
Using pesticides to kill weeds and insects will have a harmful impact on the birds in your garden, as their natural food is destroyed. To create a safe environment for birds and to prevent harm, set aside the pesticide. Allowing shrubs and a few weed species such as nettles to grow will increase the range of insects in your garden and provide even more food for birds.