How to attract wild birds to your garden.
Bring your garden alive! Feed the birds.
To attract wild birds to your garden, put out food, not just bread scraps, feed them what they like, get some bird feeders and a bath. Buy seed mix, fat balls, peanuts, etc., and put out other leftover fruit, berries, nuts, fat and cereal. If they eat it, they like it.
The average town garden, however hard you work to keep it tidy and stocked with flowers etc, can be quite a sterile place. It may be as pretty as a picture but without some life and movement it will remain relatively dull and uninteresting.The wind may blow the trees a bit, you might have a little windmill or a water feature, but whenever you look outside it will always look more or less the same. There will be few surprises.
Consider the difference if you attract a constant flow of wildlife, ie., mainly birds. Your garden comes alive! As your little feathered visitors come and go, singly, in pairs or small flocks, and you watch their antics, their habits, their relationships with their own kind and with other bird species, you build an informal knowledge about the wildlife in your area.
And you can have all this for free simply by putting out food for them. Well actually it does cost a bit of course, but believe me it's well worth it.
At first you may only see a few pigeons, sparrows, blackbirds, the odd robin, but somehow the word goes round the local bird community and you will get the occasional visit from some of the less common species. Have your camera ready! They don't stay long.
Updated 24th September 2014
Getting Started. Your first bird feeder.
Birdfeeders can be bought quite cheaply in garden centres and DIY stores etc. There are as many different types of feeder as there are birds. My one (pictured right) is like a little house. The roof lifts up to pour the bird seed in, the front and back are clear plastic to show the seed, there are small openings at the bottom for the seed to drop slowly out, and the tray extends all round for the small birds to stand and feed.
Positioning of the seed box is important. Sparrows as shown in this picture, taken at the bottom of my very small garden, move around in flocks and seem to like somewhere to perch until they move in, a few at a time, to feed. While some are eating the seed, the others are keeping watch and waiting their turn. For this reason the feeder is placed near a fence, by the garden shed, with trees in the background.
The little house is hung on a makeshift bracket above a home-made platform about 18" square. This serves two purposes; (a) birds are messy eaters and flick more seed about than they eat so this table catches the falling seed and (b) the table provides another level for more birds to eat.
The feeder is used by many different types of bird, the largest of which are the pigeons. The bottom of the little house is carefully hung about 8-9 inches above the table so that the pigeons can stand and just reach the seed. Any seed which having fallen onto the table is again flicked off onto the ground is also picked up by the sparrows and other ground feeding birds.
Some of the more exotic bird feeders come at a price. What sort you buy often depends on the size and general style of your garden, but remember the feeder will be outside all year round and in all weathers. The effects of constant use will eventually show and the newness will wear off. You may wish to replace your feeder every so often. Bear this in mind when deciding what to buy.
Also remember the birds DON'T CARE what the feeder looks like. All they are interested in is the FOOD!
What do wild British garden birds eat?
Apart from their particular species' natural diet of berries, nuts, seeds, fruit, insects, worms, fish, etc., which they find for themselves in the wild, British birds will eat a surprising number of other things. The kinds of bird that may visit your garden depends very much on where you live, not just your area of the country, but what the local environment is like. Are you near the sea, near woods, lakes, or rivers? Are there large parks or farmland nearby? Are you in a town, near the centre or on the edge? Local birds of different species are attracted by different foods and tit-bits. It is NOT just a matter of chucking some stale bread on the lawn!
Read as much as you can about your own local birdlife, their habits and food preferences. Ask at your local pet store and be sure to talk to an expert about wild birds and the food they like. Talk to your neighbours about birds they have seen in the area. Buy or borrow books and DVDs on the subject so you start out right and have something to refer to identify a rare bird if you see one. Again, have your camera ready!
Small birds go mad for fat balls!
But beware a possible danger!
Smaller birds like sparrows, robins, bluetits, coaltits, greattits, finches etc., love fat balls. Put them in a simple cage feeder like the one pictured and hang them about 5 or 6 feet from the ground either on a small tree branch or a bracket on a fence or shed.
We have two of these and they are very popular. The fat balls can be bought quite cheaply in bulk though I believe some people make their own using suet etc.
It's great fun to watch the antics of the birds as they cling onto the wire feeder, sometimes upside down, and swing back and forth on it as they peck at the fat balls inside.
There is a very slight chance of a bird getting injured while poking its head through the cage, though I think it is extremely rare. It happened in our garden only the other day. A sparrow had its neck broken while feeding through the second rung of the cage when the pile of fat balls above collapsed and a large fresh ball came down and trapped his head. Sadly by the time we noticed the poor bird hanging by the feeder, it was too late, and the bird was dead. We were very upset by this and gave him a suitable burial. So when attracting wild birds to your garden, please be aware of any dangers that may be lurking there.
Books and Bird Stuff from Amazon - Attract, Feed and Identify Wild Garden Birds
Amazon have an amazing range of books and DVDs about how to attract wild birds to your garden, how and what to feed them and what equipment works best. They also carry a wide range of bird feeders, nest boxes, bird baths and a variety of seed mixes and nuts etc., ready for delivery right to your door.
Click on any of the LINKS below to go Directly to Amazon where you can search for anything you want!
Bird Baths are essential ...
... for keeping your garden birds coming.
All kinds of birds regularly use the bird bath in my garden. Watch a recent video! CLICK HERE to WATCH
A flock of about 50 sparrows visit my garden every day. While some eat the seed and fat balls we put out, others visit the bath. Do you think they are having fun?
By the way, was that a starling leaving the bath early on? And was that a baby goldfinch on the left of the bath?
Sometimes a fat old pigeon will sit stock still for ages in the middle of the bath with his feathers all ruffled just cooling off in the sunshine.
Our bird bath is just outside our kitchen window so we see the comings and goings all day. We scrub it out regularly and make sure it is always full of fresh water. We favour a bath positioned fairly low near the ground because we find many birds seem to like to just hop up onto it and it is close by a ground-feeding seed tray on the steps from the patio to the lawn.
Encourage Wild Birds to your Garden
... but Try to Keep Them Safe!
Birds are cautious creatures. Whatever they are doing, wherever they are, they are constantly on the look out for danger. Whether you are visited by a flock of excited sparrows or a lone cocky little robin to eat the food you have put out, they are always nervously on the lookout for danger.
There are dangers for birds lurking in the most peaceful of gardens. My garden is in an urban area. I am surrounded by other houses, many of which are home to pet cats. I would judge that my local cats are well fed by their owners and do not need to hunt for food, but cats are natural predators, they catch birds for fun!
My garden is surrounded by a 6' fence but this is no obstacle to the average cat and I have found evidence (mostly feathers) of their activities. At different times of the day I have seen various neighbourhood cats creeping around the garden where the birds feed, or lurking in wait behind a shrub. I once actually witnessed a cat jump out of such a hiding place, catch a bird and run off with it firmly clamped in its jaws. If I see a cat in my garden I chase it away noisily and speedily, in the hope of teaching it that this is not a safe place for a cat to be either.
I once resorted to the use of a catapult, with soft pellets of course, I only wanted to scare it not kill it!
Now I have fitted an electronic cat scarer, occasionally put down various substances like repellent gel, and have cat-proofed the fence with additional trellis, making it as difficult as possible to get in.
One other predator that sometimes visits my garden is a sparrowhawk. The sparrowhawk looks innocent enough just sitting on the fence and the birds have the sense to keep well away, but again I have found patches of feathers on the lawn, and once managed to video the creature ripping the remains of a sparrow apart with its beak. It consumes its prey with amazing speed and precision and leaves nothing but a ring of feathers and the BEAK!
When you attract birds to your garden, please try to keep them as safe as possible from domestic cats. They just catch birds for fun!!
Another Garden Visitor
The Field Mouse, a little furry friend. Watch my video.
We have at least one field mouse living in our garden, though I'm not sure exactly where. There are several possibilities: under one of the sheds (I have three!), under the decking, under the conservatory, it's dificult to tell.
They are very nervous animals and are rarely seen. When our one does appear he darts out, nibbles some of the seed the birds have dropped around one of the feeders for a second or two and then scuttlles back to cover. A few seconds later he repeats the process.
More Tasty Morsels
... for Thrushes and Blackbirds
Slugs! Gardeners don't like 'em but some birds do! Here are three big fat juicy slugs that have climbed up onto the bird seed tray. I took this picture about 6.00am one morning.
The slugs seem to like something in the seed mix and help themselves.
These three appeared to have stuffed themselves stupid! When I looked again a few minutes later, there was no sign of them. I guess a few blackbirds or thrushes had swooped in and had themselves a nice breakfast.
Happy as a Pigeon in ...
What d'you think this is? Your own personal Hot Tub?
All the birds that come to my garden make use of the bird bath. We try to keep the water topped up and clean. The smaller birds, particularly the sparrows, come as a group and splash about all over the place.
This pigeon sat all on his own like this for ages one hot summer's day, with his feathers all ruffled up to get the air circulating, and looking as if he was really enjoying himself.
Yet Another Visitor
The week a Baby Bunny came to see us.
I looked out one morning and, to my surprise, there was this tiny wild baby rabbit, just like the one in the picture, sitting in the middle of the lawn! He was happily nibbling away at the grass. He was a welcome visitor. One we had never seen in the garden before.
We know there are lots of wild rabbits in the area; we see them, usually at dusk, on the grass verges near the road by the woods about a quarter of a mile away, but we have never seen one this close to where we live.
We wondered how he had got into the garden as we had closed all the known gaps to stop cats. Then we saw him in the next door neighbour's garden and for a few days we watched him come and go between the two. We wondered if he had taken up residence under our's or our neighbour's decking, which might have been ideal. We got quite used to him and thought about putting out special food. But then he disappeared. After a while we figured he wasn't coming back.
I asked my neighbour, had he seen the rabbit. He replied it had been eating his flowers and he had plugged the gap where it had got into his garden. So that was the end of that episode. I guess not everyone is as daft about garden wildlife as we are!
An UNWELCOME Visitor!
The Sparrow Hawk.
If we find a round patch of feathers on our lawn about 15 inches across, the chances are we've had a visit from a Sparrow Hawk. It's always a bit of a shock but it's nature's way.
The picture was taken in my garden last winter when the snow hung around for some time. The black bits you can see at the bird's feet are feathers and all that remains of what was probably a sparrow. The only other part the hawk doesn't eat is the poor bird's beak!
We used to think it was cats catching the birds until we actually saw a hawk ripping one to pieces. I suppose all birds and animals have to eat but some are less cute than others!
Once again I was lucky enough to catch sight of this bird in my garden just as he was finishing his meal. Another poor defenceless sparrow gone to the great bird sanctuary in the sky!!
Pigeons Sparring - Handbags at Dawn!
Pigeons are stroppy creatures when it comes to sharing food.
Pigeons come to our garden in small groups; three or four at a time. There seems to be some sort of pecking order, though quite what it is based on is difficult to tell. We often watch them from the windows and laugh at their antics.
One pigeon will land at a feeding station and get stuck in. Another will land nearby and waddle cautiously towards the other to get some food. The first one lifts his head and stares at the other, apparently daring him to come any closer. The interloper hesitates, but takes another step forward. The one with the food makes a sudden menacing movement in the direction of the second one, who flinches but refuses to fly away and warily looks for a way in to grab some food.
This process carries on for quite a time and as we watch I make up a dialogue based on their antics. It goes something like this:
"Oi! Can I 'ave some of that food?"
"No! Push off!"
"It's not all for you."
"Yes it is!"
"The lady puts it out for all of us!"
"Ow d'you know?"
"Get your own food!"
"Oh! Go on, give us a bit."
"You come one step closer and I'll knock yer block off!"
"You can't boss me around. I'm gonna come and get some!"
"You aint! ... Gertcha! ... Git out of it! ... Go on 'oppit! ... Go and play in the road!!" ....... And so it goes on. They all seem to get their fill eventually. They're all fat!!