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Gardening with birds

Updated on December 12, 2012

A hungry Robin

Seeing a Robin in the garden is getting rarer and rarer. Help keep this garden bird with us so we can enjoy his cheerful song
Seeing a Robin in the garden is getting rarer and rarer. Help keep this garden bird with us so we can enjoy his cheerful song

Garden Birds

It’s a frightening fact that the numbers and varieties of garden birds seen in British gardens are dropping dramatically. Gardens provide much needed shelter and food for garden birds, even the House Sparrow is on the endangered list. The numbers of Blackbirds, Robins and blue tits are dropping at an alarming rate.  So what can we do to encourage garden birds  into our plots? The most obvious is food. A lot of us put out extra food in the winter, which is a good idea, however it’s the spring when they breed that birds need us most. Like people different birds like different foods, so feeding stations offering a variety of things are a good idea. Balls of fat for tits, and sparrows. Black sunflower seeds for blackbirds and collared doves and peanuts for Robins. However something to remember is crush the lager nuts and seeds in the breeding season so the young don’t choke. Occasionally small amounts of dry breakfast cereals can be put out, but not cooked porridge. Other things not to put out are salted nuts moldy food, milk and polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils. The soft fats can easily be smeared onto the feathers, destroying the waterproofing and insulating qualities.


Feeding garden birds

The feeding station you choose for garden birds in your garden is much down to personal taste, but it must be easy for you to clean it 2 or three times a year. This is vital as when garden birds gather in large numbers, diseases can be spread easily. So it is wise to brush under bird stations and wash them down with warm water and a mild disinfectant. Even better still is to rotate bird baths and bird baths around your garden. Besides food there is a lot a garden can do to help native garden birds.

House Sparrows in the garden

House sparrows in the garden having a bath
House sparrows in the garden having a bath

Ponds for garden birds

Ponds provide garden birds with somewhere to drink and bathe, as well as a source of food in the form of insects and plant life. Birds need shallow water in which to bathe and drink without fear of drowning and for bathing birds prefer shallow running water ; with this in mind think of making a natural access and perching point . Here are a couple of simple inexpensive ideas. Create a bridge over a section of your pond using a tree stump or branch. The branch should dip into the water and rest on the bottom of the pond giving any climbing animal access to and out of the pond. Birds will perch here, as will the dragonflies and damsel flies. If you have a waterfall and stream in the pond, place a boulder in the middle to create a resting place for birds and also to add character to the flow of the water. Some insects in the garden, can only breed in running water, so these will also provide a meal for visiting birds. If you don’t have room for a pond, water can be provided with a bird bath. This can be any shallow container with a rim for birds to perch. These should be refreshed weekly and cleaned two or three times a year. Please I cannot stressed enough how vital it is to clean bird baths and feeding stations as diseases are spread so easily among birds especially in the winter when their immune systems are low.

Nesting boxes for garden birds

Nesting boxes are a huge pleasure to have in the garden, though you have to be patient as it may be a couple of years before the box is inhabited by garden birds. Different species of birds, prefer different openings in the boxes, tits like a hole in the front, while robins like an open fronted box. Nesting boxes need to be sited at least two meters off the ground with the entrance hole facing between north and east.. There is some very good advice and plans to build your own bird box on the link below.


A cheeky bird

This collared dove dropping into the garden for lunch
This collared dove dropping into the garden for lunch

Nesting birds appreciate extra supplies for building and lining their nests. Offer short, 3”-4” long  pieces of string, yarn, white tissue, pet hair, dried grass, twigs and straw to supply building materials for nests. Drape the material on shrubs or tree limbs they will soon find it especially in the spring.


A christmas warning

 Don't put out turkey fat for the bird as it can be carrying food poisoning. birds are very susceptible to salmonella. There are many other things you can put out for them, crumbled up Christmas cake always goes down a treat.

For the armchair gardener


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    • MSantana profile image

      MSantana 6 years ago from Madison Wisconsin

      I wrote a series on gardening with wildlife. I am sure the feathery creatures are grateful for your hub.

    • profile image

      VivekSri 7 years ago

      Wonder how nice it would be to share a day with them and make a gardening partner! There's so much activity for them all day long. Think this is a good post.

    • jayjay40 profile image

      jayjay40 8 years ago from Bristol England

      I am so stunned and pleased to be nominated. It's nice to know that many of you take the plight of our feathered friends seriously. A big thanks from me and the birds

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Wow, that sounds so nice and pretty. Congratulations for being a Hubnugget Wannabe! Yes, this hub has been hand picked. To see the Hubnuggets activities for this week, please follow this link: Don't forget to vote and promote. Okay!?

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 8 years ago from Canada

      Congratulations on your nomination!

    • jayjay40 profile image

      jayjay40 8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks for the comment. I've been keeping a note of the birds in my garden and it is surprising how few there are. I'll keep feeding them in the winter as well then perhaps their numbers will rise.

    • Chloe Comfort profile image

      Chloe Comfort 8 years ago from Long Island

      Nice hub! You're right! There did used to be so many more birds in my garden. Great ideas that I will put to use come the spring time. Will keep some feeders out there in the winter though :-) Kudos!