How to attract birds to your garden
However big or small your green space, you can give garden birds a helping hand to flourish all year long with these simple steps.
Birdwatching from your home
Birdwatching is a simple, relaxing pleasure and one that most of us can enjoy safely by just looking out of the window. Obviously it helps if you are lucky enough to overlook a green space, but the good news is it doesn’t have to be a large plot and there are simple things you can do to attract birds to balconies, patios or even your window for a close up view.
Attracting garden birds
For birds to flourish they need a regular supply of the right food, water, shelter – from the weather and predators - and somewhere nearby to nest.
A natural approach
If possible, use your outdoor space to grow bird friendly plants. Birds love fruit, seeds and berries so holly, honeysuckle and ivy are good choices, as are fruit trees which also provide shelter. Thrushes enjoy eating windfalls left on the ground. And lawns provide worms and insects for robins and blackbirds. Gardener’s World magazine has lots of advice for bird friendly planting – from birch trees to more manageable hazel bushes and of course sunflowers. And remember that growing insect friendly – and window box friendly - plants like lavender, borage and thyme or adding bug hotels also helps birds by providing an abundant food source.
Bird tables and feeders
Ideally, feeding stations should be in quiet locations, safe from predators and close to a tree or bush for shelter and perching. The RSPB stocks a range of bird approved tables for larger gardens.
Hanging bird feeders are a convenient and flexible option and offer something to suit most spaces – hang them from your balcony, fencing, a tree or a slim metal pole. Metal feeding station poles can hang a variety of foods to attract different birds, are impossible for cats to climb and can be used with a base on patios.
And window feeding boxes are ideal if you have limited options – or want to enjoy seeing the birds up close.
Good food to suit different birds
Common garden birds to look out for include blue tits, coal tits, great tits, blackbirds, robins, greenfinches, sparrows and chaffinches, as well as larger magpies and woodpigeons. And they all have their own feeding preferences.
Good seed mixes include millet (favoured by sparrows and finches), maize (a treat for blackbirds), sunflower seeds and peanuts (loved by robins, tits and greenfinches).
Fresh or dried mealworms are enjoyed particularly by robins and blue tits.
Fresh coconut halves make a tasty and nutritious treat for a variety of birds.
Quality scraps – leftover bread, cheese and pastry are fine as occasional treats according to the RSPB.
Note: Use high quality bird food mixes if possible and keep feeding stations clean, dry and mould free to avoid making birds sick.
How to look after garden birds in winter
Winter can be very hard on birds, particularly the small ones. They need to eat up to a third of their bodyweight a day to build enough of a fat store to keep them warm through the long, dark, cold nights. Hard ground and a of lack insects, fruit and seeds makes food harder to come by too, so this is a good time to put out extra treats.
As well as the bird food mentioned above, fat balls or cakes will give birds access to an extremely rich source of nutrition. You can buy these but they’re also simple and satisfying to make.
As temperatures drop below freezing, remember to put out a shallow bowl of water for birds to drink. And if you have a handy tree or suitable space why not invest in a nest box or two too? You’ll soon have our feathered friends flocking to see you.