Using a bird table to provide food in the winter is estimated to save the lives of up to a million garden birds every year. A bird table is also a great way to feed live food to birds during spring which parent birds can feed to their chicks.
Make the most of your bird table by following these 10 simple tips.
Hanging bird tables
Most traditional bird tables come mounted on a pole and will attract lots of common garden birds. However, if you want to attract shy or secretive birds choose a bird table you can hang from a tree. Hanging bird tables are also perfect if you have a small garden or patio and are a great way to get children interested in feeding birds.
Whether you choose to buy a bird table or make your own, ensure that the wood comes from sustainable sources and is approved by the FSC. FSC certification means the wood has been harvested from responsibly managed, socially beneficial, and economically viable forests. Your supplier will be able to advise you if you are uncertain.
A quiet spot
Don’t put a bird table too close to windows, doors, or paths, or anywhere birds will be disturbed as they feed. Resist the temptation to get too close to a bird table when birds are feeding as human movement can scare birds and may stop them from visiting.
A roof will not only help keep food dry but also prevent larger birds such as magpies, pigeons and gulls getting to the food on your bird table before smaller birds have a chance to tuck in. A traditional thatched roof may look pretty but it is unlikely to last as long as a slate roof, and in the spring birds may remove the straw to use for nest building.
Keep things clean
Clean your bird table regularly with a special cleaner or a mild disinfectant to stop the build up of bacteria that may be harmful to birds, and to help prevent the spread of disease. Remove uneaten food at the end of each day and take care particularly in hot weather when things can go rancid fairly quickly.
If you are worried about predators such as cats attacking your garden birds as they feed, a baffle or metal collar fitted to the post will stop them climbing up and reaching the table. A baffle will also help prevent squirrels raiding your bird table or you may want to consider providing them with their own food at a separate feeding area.
Place your bird table somewhere where birds will have an all-round view as they feed so they are aware of any threats nearby. Choose a site about 2 metres from a shrub, tree, or fence so that birds can fly for cover if they are ambushed by predators or feel at all unsafe.
Love your leftovers
You don’t need to buy specialist bird seeds and mixes for your bird table. Many kitchen scraps are perfectly fine to feed your garden birds including grated mild cheese, dried and fresh fruit, nuts, bread and cake crumbs, bacon rind, and cooked potatoes. Avoid anything with a high salt content or liquid fats that can damage their feathers.
Bird tables made from modern materials such as plastic, glass and metal will last longer than a traditional wooden bird table and are ideal if you have a contemporary or urban garden. Modern bird tables are often easier to clean and will make a real style statement in your garden.
Thrushes, blackbirds, wrens, and wagtails like to feed from the ground so choose a low bird table if you want to attract these species. Unfortunately feeding from the ground means birds are vulnerable to predators so protect your feeder with a cage so that they can feed in peace.