Week 26 - Attracting birds to your garden
Gardens, especially small urban ones, are an incredibly useful habitat for birds and if you provide the right features you will be surprised how many birds you can attract. Here are my 7 tips for attracting birds to your garden.
7 ways to bring birds to your garden
1. Grow plants that provide food for birds
A bird attracting garden needs to contain a variety of plants which will provide plenty of food all year round. If you grow seed bearing annuals and herbaceous plants do not be too keen to tidy these up at the end of their flowering season or you will remove the food source and watching birds such as goldfinches feed off seed heads is an absolute joy. If you have room, a hedge of native plants such as hawthorn, guelder rose, blackberry and dogwood is fantastic for birds and by adding small trees such as rowan, birds will love you even more.
2. Grow plants that provide shelter for birds
Birds need shelter from both the heat of summer and the cold/wet of winter. Many of the shrubs and trees that provide food also given them this shelter, especially of they are quite dense in structure. A hedge of native plants including blackberries and a wall covered in thick ivy are very "des res" for our native birds.
3. Attract insects to your garden
Not all birds are seed eaters. Some eat both seeds and insects but many summer visitors only eat insects. It makes sense therefore to attract insects to your garden as a food source for birds. Growing insect attracting plants, leaving wood and leaf piles for minibeasts, building an insect hotel, having a pond and allowing some grass to grow long will all be great for insects and help attract birds to your garden.
4. Provide water
As well as food, birds need water, especially in the summer and in periods where temperatures fall below freezing and available water gets locked up in ice. Both ponds and water baths provide this water, just make sure you top it up in summer and break the ice in winter. Adding a couple of footballs to a pond can reduce how quickly it freezes and by removing them in the day you have a hole for birds to drink through.
5. Put up nest boxes
Birds generally don't use nest boxes as "homes" but purely as maternity units i.e. where they build their nests and raise their brood and even then not all birds use them. However providing several nest boxes throughout the garden with different sized holes will increase your chances having birds raise their young in your garden. Make sure you clean them each autumn otherwise they can harbour pests and parasites. Autumn is a good time to put them up as the birds have time to get used to them through the winter.
6. Feed the birds
Giving birds extra food can be vital for their survival. Provide a variety of food types at different heights, including some on the ground. Ensure the feeding area is kept clean and if possible move the feeders every so often. Having them away from building where predators such as cats may lurk is a good idea. In Spring do not feed whole peanuts as these can choke baby birds. It is important, too, that once you start feeding the birds you should not suddenly stop - you can ease off in the summer if you want but especially in bad weather, birds will come to rely on your feeding station so do plan for a friend to fill the feeders if you are going to be away for any length of time.
7. Go Organic
By gardening organically you will not be using chemicals that could poison birds (or the insects they feed on). The whole ethos of organic gardening is to work with nature, not against her and so all wildlife including birds will benefit.