A well-stocked bird table is one of the simplest ways to begin attracting birds to your garden. But with so many styles and designs on the market, it can be difficult to know which one you should buy.
These tips will help you think about what to consider when choosing the perfect bird table for your garden.
Make sure your bird table is big enough. If it’s too small you will probably see more fighting than feeding, as birds don’t tend to like crowded areas, so choose a bird table with a feeding platform of about 3-4 square foot.
A very large bird table will be more attractive to predators such as squirrels and rats. You may also find that it ends up being occupied by a neighbourhood cat who will enjoy watching the birds in your garden from an elevated position.
If you have a very small garden, or only a patio or balcony, you could buy a hanging bird table. They’ll take up less room than a bird table mounted on a post and can be concealed in trees and shrubs making them more attractive to smaller, secretive birds.
Most bird tables are made of wood and although wooden bird tables are still popular you can now find tables made of other materials such as metal, plastic, polycarbonate, and even glass.
Bird tables made of more modern materials are often easier to clean and can withstand the elements better. This means they may last longer than wooden bird tables, which over time can rot no matter how well they’re treated and maintained. If you have a contemporary or urban garden, then a more modern style bird table may fit right in.
When choosing a wooden bird table make sure it has been constructed from FSC certified wood. FSC stands for Forest Stewardship Council and wood marked with their ‘tick tree’ logo has come from forests that meet high environmental and social standards.
Cheap, poorly constructed bird tables can pose a danger to birds. Moving or ‘scissoring’ joints could trap them, and sharp, unfinished edges could hurt their feet. Low-quality bird tables are unlikely to withstand the Great British weather for very long, so choose a well-made bird table that’s built to last.
The majority of bird tables come with a roof. They’re an integral part of a bird table and will help keep food fresh and dry and may help prevent larger birds taking all the food before smaller birds get a chance. You may even find that some birds use the bird table as a roost at night sheltering under the roof to keep warm.
A slate roof is an ideal choice; it looks attractive, and is and durable in all weathers, draining away rain to protect the wood underneath. Slate will also add some weight to your bird table to prevent it from blowing over in very windy weather.
Bird tables with thatched roofs can look attractive, particularly in country-cottage style gardens, and they are naturally waterproof. However, during spring, you may find that your rustic bird table starts to get a bit shabby as breeding birds remove the thatch to build their nests.
Some bird tables incorporate a nest box in the roof, but these are not to be recommended. They’re unlikely to be used and it’s not best practice to encourage birds to feed near a nesting territory.
You could choose a bird table with no roof at all. Birds will be just as happy to feed on an open platform and it’s easier to clear away old food from a roofless table. However, you may find that the food spoils more quickly in both the sun and the rain and you’ll find it harder to deter bigger birds if that’s your aim.
A roof can only do so much when it comes to keeping out water, so make sure your bird table has adequate drainage to prevent food becoming wet and spoiling.
If it doesn’t come with drainage holes in the platform then you’ll need to drill a few yourself. And although some bird tables include a bird bath in the table top, we wouldn’t recommend buying one of these, as birds have a tendency to splash water everywhere when they’re drinking or bathing; use a separate bird bath instead.
A smooth, straight post is one of the best defences against unwanted guests accessing the bird table platform, so avoid rustic, carved, or knobbly posts that are easy for paws to grip. Squirrels will struggle to climb a metal or plastic post and cats will find it virtually impossible.
If you think predators may be a problem then slide a length of plastic drainpipe or similar over the post, or attach a baffle or guard to make it unscalable.
Ideally, the post should be about 5 – 6 ft long. Birds may feel vulnerable feeding on a table close to the ground so don’t choose a pole that is too short. On the other hand, if your bird table is too tall then you’re going to find it difficult to keep it stocked and clean.
Don’t overlook the design of the base of your bird table. A wide, heavy base will help prevent your bird table from toppling over. If your bird table doesn’t feel very stable then you may need to secure it to the ground with stabilising anchoring pegs or something more makeshift like sandbags or bricks.