Who doesn’t love the colour, noise and bustle that birds bring to British gardens? Here are seven easy ways to push up visitor numbers at any time of year.
Offering proper quality food is the best way you can tempt wild birds to visit. Beware cheap seed blends. They’re bulked up with with low-cost ingredients like wheat, but they won’t give birds the same level of calories and nutrition they need. The same applies to cut-price fat balls that can include all sorts of nutrition-free nasties – even sawdust and glue.
Once you’ve got into the habit of feeding birds, they’ll naturally adapt to the rhythm and come to expect food. So try to avoid suddenly bringing things to a halt. If you’re going away on holiday, think about offering extra food – or even back-up feeders – so birds can keep feeding in your absence.
Positioning a bird feeder is as important as the food you’re filling it with. There are some simple ground rules. Don’t go too near to flowerbeds and shrubbery where cats and other predators can lurk. Equally, an exposed spot far from cover can up the risk of sparrowhawk attacks. Most of all, experiment and find out what works best. Unlike a fixed tree branch, a garden pole can be moved regularly as you search for that sweet spot.
Feeder hygiene’s just one of those things you shouldn’t overlook. Dirty feeders can spread disease between birds, so get in the habit of keeping everything clean and healthy for your visitors. Tap, brush or blow out seed husks and loose bits of uneaten food every time you refill. Every couple of weeks, go for a more thorough wash and brush up with warm, soapy water before rinsing, drying and reassembling.
Birds like insects. And insects like plants. As a bird-friendly gardener, you can make a huge difference by encouraging bugs – even with something simple like a rotting tree stump or letting the grass grow a little longer. Trees, hedges and bushes provide lots of options for perching, roosting, nesting and hiding from predators, while their seeds, fruit and berries offer a ready source of food.
Nest boxes are a magnet for birds. Put them up new boxes well before the breeding season starts: birds start scouting for potential homes weeks or months ahead. And after the last brood of chicks have fledged, boxes are welcomed for roosting at any time of year. Always choose a solid, properly made box that provides warmth, shelter and security.
Whether it’s a pond or birdbath, the importance of a regular supply of water for drinking, bathing and feather-care can’t be stressed enough. It’s not rocket science: keep baths clean and refresh water regularly. It’s not just a summer thing, either: birds need water right through the winter months.