If you want to attract birds to your garden you need to keep in mind that the 3 things birds need most of all are sustenance, shelter, and safety. If you can provide all of these in your garden then you’ve got a good chance the birds will come visiting.
We’ve compiled a simple step-by-step guide to help you make the most of your garden and turn it into a haven for wild birds.
Hanging up some bird feeders is one of the easiest ways to attract birds, such as goldfinches, greenfinches, long-tailed tits, blue tits, great tits, sparrows, and starlings to your garden. Bird feeders can be used in all sizes of garden and if you live in a flat they can also be hung up on balconies or fixed to the side of a building.
There are many styles of bird feeders available designed to hold different kinds of food, and you need to make sure that you choose the right feeder for the food you want to use. We recommend that you start off by hanging up one or two that hold the most popular bird foods. Once you have some birds using them you can begin to experiment and add some more.
There is a huge variety of bird food on the market including mixes for specific species. Unless you know which species of birds you wish to attract to your garden then you should start off with a versatile all-round food which will be enjoyed by all birds such as peanuts or sunflower hearts. Over time you can introduce more types of food and in winter and breeding season supplement it with high energy foods such as fat balls and suet cakes.
You should always buy your bird food from a reputable supplier and be aware that inexpensive bird food can include cheap filler with little or no nutritional value. Store your bird food in a cool, dry place to keep it lasting longer and to prevent it spoiling.
If you have the room then a bird table is another way to feed garden birds. Bird tables have the advantage over hanging feeders in that you can offer a wider variety of food as well as kitchen scraps and fruit. Birds who struggle to use bird feeders such as blackbirds, robins, collared doves, and thrushes will quite happily feed from a bird table.
To prevent larger birds taking all the food from your bird table choose a table with a roof, preferably made of slate This will also keep the food dry in the event of wet weather. You should clear your bird table of any uneaten food at the end of each day to prevent rodents and the spread of disease.
Bird feeder safety
Where you choose to hang your bird feeders or pace your bird table is important. Birds needs to feel safe when they use them so there should be a nearby perch, such as a shrub or a tree, which they can land on before using the feeders and where they can fly to if they feel threatened.
Dirty bird feeders can cause harm to birds by encouraging the spread of bacteria and disease. You should thoroughly clean your bird feeders and table at least once a week but more often in hot weather or if they are very busy. If the food in your bird feeders looks as though it is going rotten then throw it away, clean the feeders, and replace with a fresh supply.
Birds need fresh water to drink and bathe in. A bird bath can be as simple as an upturned dustbin lid or shallow dish placed on the ground, or you can buy a more ornate bath if you want to make it a feature in your garden. As birds are attracted to the sound of running water installing a pump or buying a solar powered bird bath can encourage them to come visiting.
In warm weather stagnant water can be a breeding ground for bacteria so periodically change out the water and give the basin of the bath a good clean at least once a week. Most bird baths can be left out all year round but if you have a stone bath be aware that they can crack in sub-zero temperatures.
For the first half of the year birds are busy courting, breeding, nesting, and rearing chicks. Give them a helping hand in your garden by providing them with suitable nesting sites. You could either hang up a bird box or provide them with natural nesting sites in dense hedges and shrubs, trees, or thick creepers such as ivy.
Birds are very vulnerable during breeding season so if you have put up a nest box and are lucky enough to have a pair of birds using it resist the temptation to get too close to have a look at what’s going on inside as any disturbance could result in the birds abandoning the nest. A camera nest box lets you get a bird’s eye view from afar.
Plants for birds
To attract lots of different birds to your garden you should have a wide variety of plants including berry-bearing bushes, shrubs and trees for shelter, and grass and flowers that will attract insects to provide natural sources of food. If you have a lawn try planting a mini wildflower meadow to improve the diversity in your garden.
Even if your garden is not very big or you only have a patio or terrace you can add a few containers of plants to provide seeds or shelter. Sunflowers, poppies, marigolds, lavender, daisies, and grasses all work well in pots and you’ll appreciate the colour as well as the wildlife they bring.
For people who are trying to attract birds to their gardens, cats in the neighbourhood can be one of their biggest enemies. It can be very upsetting to find the remains of a bird scattered around your garden after being attacked by a cat. Unfortunately, although you may be able to somewhat control your own cat it is nigh on impossible to do the same for visiting cats.
It is possible to cat-proof your garden with cat deterrents, such as fence spikes, sonic and scent deterrents, and light reflectors. Baffles on your bird feeders should help prevent not only cats accessing them but also squirrels and rats raiding the food inside.
Birds need food most in the spring when they are expending a lot of energy on breeding and bring up chicks, and in winter when natural food sources may be scarce, and they need energy to keep warm. However, food shortages can occur at any time of year particularly in urban areas or during periods of drought or very heavy rain.
During autumn and winter put out high-energy food such as fat balls, suet treats, niger seed, sunflower hearts, and peanuts, and keep your bird baths topped up and free from ice. In spring and summer birds need protein, so mealworms, seed mixes for insectivorous birds, and leftover kitchen scraps such as unsalted bacon and grated cheese. On very hot days only offer small amounts of food as it can spoil and go rancid in the sun.
After getting your garden ready it may take days, weeks, or even months before birds start visiting. Don’t despair if things seem to be taking a little longer than expected. It could be that there are plenty of natural food sources available nearby or your neighbours are keeping the local birds well fed. Patience is key and eventually they will come and then you can start to see what food they are most enjoying and if they are investigating any nest sites.
Once you have some new visitors try adding some things that will attract specific species such as a suet log feeder for woodpeckers or an open-fronted nest box for robins. You could also try attracting other wildlife with an insect house or butterfly feeder. Or you could try your hand at the very rewarding hobby of photographing garden birds.
What birds will I attract?
With just a little effort you should soon start to see a wide variety of birds come flocking to your garden.
Our mini guide will help you identify 18 of the most common UK birds that you might see visit