Let’s discuss how to attract wild birds to your garden. The joy, happiness, and satisfaction that people get from watching and feeding the birds. Once they start feeding the have a kind of mesmerising hold on us. I particularly remember when, my parents’ began feeding the birds when the first feeders went up, my granddad was looking out the window at the feeders and one of his first comments was, “Why would you want to feed the birds?” this was maybe 15 years ago and this was all new to man of his age.
However in a very short space of time, he would spend hours upon hours just sitting at the window looking out at them, they have that ability to hold you just watching them being themselves. Whether it’s the gold finches fighting over the nyjer seed, the blue tits tentatively watching to see what’s going on before going to lunch or the lone robin that stays on the ground picking up the nuts the other birds drop.
There’s something fascinating about watching them. There’s energy about them. Fluttering around. Fighting with one another. They’re up and down, scouting the area, watching out for threats and it’s just great to watch them.
So at home we have fed the birds for many years. We actually only feed two types of food. It’s peanuts and Nyjer seed, but we get a huge variety of wild birds. Which is down to many reasons. There’s a lot of hedges with berries, natural food for the birds, they also get the protection from the hedges. The hedges provide a safe place to nest. Our feeding area has a bit of variety also which they like. We have trees, garden hedge and natural hedge all very close to the feeding area.
We get a great variety of birds we have a lot of, goldfinches which is great because obviously they have the beautiful colours on them and are one type of birds that most people want to attract into the garden. Also plenty chaffinches, green finches, bullfinches, and we have blue tits and they’re great as well because they eat aphids. We have great tits, coal tits, sparrows, siskins and thrush’s which is obviously a gardener’s friend as well, eating slugs and snails.
Then we have the usuals, blackbirds, wood pigeons, starlings, ravens, crows, grey crows, magpies. A couple of those guys you don’t necessarily want to see around, but they are extremely clever. Magpies, grey crows are very, very clever and will almost always find ways to eat well. Recently then we have a buzzard which has moved in not too far away. He seems to dominate his neighbourhood, a couple of times a day all the other birds disappear. When you look at the buzzard is on the move and all others go into hiding. Very Interesting to see them and they are becoming very, very plentiful.
Of course we have a robin here. Robins are, for a lot of people a garden friend. There is a mythical property about them people talk about them being a spirit of somebody who has passed. It was interesting, when I started researching where that came from. The amount of stories from reputable sources of the robins and how they came to people, after somebody had passed on. It was very interesting to read it because I knew there was something there but I wasn’t quite sure what it was about. But everyone likes the robin and it’s the one that you always try to get in as well.
So the question I often get asked is, should we really be feeding the birds? The answer to that is yes. The reason is, natural food sources are less available than they were years ago. So if you went back 20 years, hedges weren’t cut. There was fallow areas on farms, but now with intensive farming, hedges are cut tight. A lot of hedges have been removed and cut down to allow for the bigger machinery. Intensive farming means that there’s less worms in the soil and less insects as well, so that has contributed to it.
If you go into the towns and the cities, all of these green areas and parks now are perfectly groomed. Far less wild areas, less fallow areas, which again means that there’s less insects and less food, for the birds. So because of that, it’s quite important that we supplementary feed them.
I think initially, a number of years ago when feeding the birds was becoming more popular. A lot of the bird watch people would have said only feed at certain times of the year. Some would have said not to feed at all, but that has changed now. The recommendation now is to feed all year round. Particularly to feed in the times of year when there’s big demand. So when we get frost, snow and also in the late spring and early summer. When the chicks are hatched out because there’s high demand then on the food sources. So that’s why we should feed and it’s really important now that we supplementary feed them.
Firstly, to attract wild birds to your garden. We should put it somewhere where we’re able to get a good view. That’s purely from a selfish point of view. So, if we’re going to set up feeders, and a bird table, obviously it’s going to be nice to be able to sit inside, look out the window with a cup of coffee and see the birds and enjoy them, and enjoy their fun and energy. So let’s look at what we need to set up our feeding area.
By exposed, I mean somewhere where cats could sneak up behind the shed, or bigger birds like sparrow-hawks, etc. could get to the small birds while feeding. So what we’re looking for. An area where you have trees, hedging, a wall, or any kind of an escape route for the birds. Somewhere for them to take a vantage point before they actually move down and start to feed.
They can be quite cagey. So if you have feeders and a car drives in, the birds fly off. Well what they’ll do is they’ll still sit out for a little while. One bird will drop down to a tree nearby, then another one. Eventually they’ll all come back but they need vantage points. They need places to get away to, so obviously a hedge, trees, all that sort of thing is good.
Either because what can happen there is, when the food starts falling on the ground you can get rats etc. Under the garden shed and they can come out. So ideally you would have it on a grass area or a paved area. Not too close to a shed where rats can hide out.
This feeding area, wherever we set it up ideally should have a couple of things. *We’re going to need bird table or a feeding station*, or both. This is somewhere that we’re going to hang our bird feeders from. We should have a bird bath, which is for water. It’s important to always have water available for the birds. Especially at times of frost or in the summertime. There isn’t always fresh water sources available to them. So it’s good to have water there, especially near the feeders, when they’re eating, they’re able to get a drink. They’re also able to wash themselves and that’s what they do. They splash around in it.
(1)escape route/vantage point for the birds. (2) Feeding station/bird table with feeders (3) water bath.
You can make a bird table or feeding station yourself It can be very, very simple. All you’re looking for is something that you can hang your bird feeders from. That’s roughly four to five feet off the ground and that predators, like a cat, can’t easily scale. As I said before, you’re looking for a couple of escape routes, so a hedge, tree, anything that the birds can easily get away to if something becomes a threat to them. So that’s how we set up the area and where we set it up. Now lets look at the food types and what food is best for wild birds.
We feed *peanuts* and these are probably the most common food for attracting wild birds to your garden. It attracts in multiple species. It’s high in oil and so because of that, it’s very high in energy, particularly at the colder times of the year it’s generally very good value for money as well.
These are basically the same thing except that the black sunflower, as we know it, has a shell on it. The birds literally would take that out of the feeder crack the shell and take the heart out of it. The Sunflower hearts for that reason are more expensive per kilo, but they is no waste with them. They’re essentially like the peanuts, that are high energy again and you use the same feeder as you would for peanuts that are a mesh feeder. So whether it’s black sunflower or sunflower hearts, you’re using a peanut feeder to feed them.
The next one then is *Nyjer* seed and as I said earlier, that’s one that we use here ourselves particularly because we wanted to get a lot of goldfinches in and it has done that. So Nyjer seed, looks like lawn seed It’s that little, small, fine seed and it’s black in colour.
Now I’m not quite sure what the science behind it is, but finches absolutely go crazy for this stuff and it’s like a drug. They will literally jump onto it. They won’t touch peanuts when there is nyjer seed available. Multiple goldfinches will fight one another to get to the nyjer seed. This needs to be fed from a special nyjer seed feeder with really small holes if you feed from normal seed feeder the nyjer seed can blow away.
The next type of wild bird food is *wild bird mixed seeds.* These vary, so you can get the cheap mixes and the cheap mixes tend to have a high percentage of cheaper grains like wheat in it. So what you’re looking for is you’re looking for a better quality mix. So obviously you’d have to spend a little bit more on it, but what that does, it gives you a wider variety of seeds, grains and even mixed corns. What you get with this is you get a bigger variety of birds coming in because of the variety of grains and seed in the better mixes.
So the type of feeder that you need is the plastic tubular feeder, with little outlet holes on it these can come in various sizes with more feeding points in the bigger types. It’s important to emphasize to buy the better quality mixes because it attracts in more birds.
Then there’s a huge amount of suet product sold so you can get *suet pellets,* which are little, small pellets of suet and they’re very, very high in fat, which means high energy. Wild birds really like particularly at very, very cold times of the year. *Fat balls* again high in fat and energy and are fed with their with their own specific feeder. You can get *suet cakes* and they can come with mixed fruit and seeds as well. Suet treats are one that you can actually make quite easily yourself, so you can buy suet in your supermarket, melt it down, add some raisins oats or other seeds or any seeds that you can find and then just freeze it then you can put that out into your feeders. So if you want, and you can make that food yourself.
Any fruit birds even fruit which may not be 100% fresh wild birds would be quite happy to eat that.
So that is the main foods. It’s important to feed a variety of foods. Okay, one is fine. It’s good. It attracts some birds in, but if you’re looking for a variety, which most people are, you’re looking to see different types of birds, well then the best thing to do is to have multiple types of food or at least two types of food and then that will bring in variety of birds.
Now, if you’re starting fresh with a food and you have got a couple of feeders, don’t put out a big lot of food at once. If the birds haven’t been used to coming to your garden, because they won’t just turn up tomorrow and eat all that food, so put out a small bit, attract a few in and as soon as you start to see that they’re eating it and that they’re looking for it, then you can fill up and put lots of it out. But if you put out too much at the start, you can attract in unwanted pests like rats and so on. So just be careful of that one.
Birds will nest in the garden anyway, so if you have good hedges, they will nest in the hedges, in holes within mature trees, holes in walls etc.
But if we’re going to put extra nesting areas into the garden, so what we’re looking for is we’re looking to put up nesting boxes, timber nesting boxes with a circular hole in the front. Now the size of the hole in the front determines the type of bird that you would get to nest into it and it takes time to get them to trust a nest box.
They can be quick skeptical It could be there a year before any bird will lodge in it.
If you’re buying nesting boxes or making them, just make sure that you have some way of cleaning it out so that if you’re lucky enough to get birds nesting into it, that at the end of the nesting season, tyou have to clean it out and leave it fresh for the following year because they won’t come back in if it’s dirty. So that’s nesting boxes and its good to add in some because it gives the birds a little bit more of a holding. Your garden becomes their home, their area, so you tend to keep more birds around the place when they have areas to nest as well. So now that we’ve set up our feeding area and we know what the best foods to feed them with.
Depending on the size of garden that we have, there are many things that we can do. I’ll give a full list things that we can do to attract the birds in. Now if you’ve a medium size garden or a small garden, all of these might not be possible, but every one that you do, will be beneficial.
1. So first is to add hedges. So if we’ve hedges around the garden , that gives protection. It gives somewhere for the birds to get away. They can nest in the hedge, particularly if it’s a mature thick hedge. If we’re planting a hedge from scratch and we want to attract in more birds, then best to choose native varieties of berry bearing plants, such as hawthorn, holly, elders, brambles. Also if we can add in trees, that bear berries as well, that’d be a big help.
2. The second thing is to create a log pile somewhere in the garden. You see a lot of this over the last couple of years, where people are putting in insect houses or insect hotels. But if you have a pile of logs and just leave them they become inhabited by insects and insects are food for the birds and so you attract more birds in.
3. If we have a veg garden, then obviously you have slugs and snails and again which is food for the birds, we have birds that would love that in the garden and would be watching for us gardeners to turn the sod or cut some veg leaving an area free for them to pounce and take their prize.
4. Herbaceous borders with seed bearing flowers, so for example, sedums, red hot poker, they’re great food sources, especially for finches.At the end of the year, when the flowers have died back, you just leave them there and the birds will pick at them and eventually then, after that food is all expended, we can cut them and tidy over.
5. A pond is great as well because you get a different type of insect. So you get your pond insects and things that you wouldn’t get in a normal garden because of the water. You have your pond and marginal plants there as well and they bring in, frogs etc. So it’s all just adding to the diversity. All adding to the possible food sources and reasons why a bird would come into your garden.
6. If you could have a wildflower or a floral meadow in your garden and not cut it until very, very late in the winter, when the flowers have died back and the birds have actually fed on the flower tops that will be a great food source.
7. The next thing is to create a feeding area as we discussed earlier, with all the mixed feeders. So just to point it out again, what we’re looking for, is we’re looking for a bird table, feeding station, bird bath for water, and obviously the feeders.
8. If we have a compost heap in the garden, that also helps, so compost heaps you’re getting worms, insects and that sort of thing in there, and again, that’s food sources for the birds.
9. The final is to set up nesting boxes. So that just gives them, somewhere that they can become resident within your garden.
If you have a large garden all of these points may be possible for you if you have a medium garden or even a small garden there’s probably one or two of those that you can incorporate and that will help attract wild birds into your garden.
We have covered a lot there. We’ve looked at how to attract wild birds into your garden and the reasons why we should feed the birds, what we can do as gardeners to help them. We’ve talked a little bit about the joy and happiness that they bring to a garden. It really is great fun, particularly with children, to be looking at and trying to identify the birds that you have, spotting a new one, learning about them, learning about their habits, seeing how the different types of bird react. It’s very, very satisfying. It’s also something nice to do.
I know when our feeders run low or run out, you almost feel guilty. You feel a duty towards them once you’ve started feeding them. It’s something nice to do. But to be honest, they definitely give a lot more back than we give to them. So you hear the song in the morning, you see the fighting and the playing that they do and you just can’t beat that. So it’s important to support them, important to try and bring more of them into the garden.
Modern practices probably mean that they’re under a little bit of pressure for food and so on so it’s important that we as gardeners support them.
Thanks for being here until the next time.
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