Most gardens have a bird table and you would be forgiven for thinking that is all you need to attract birds into your garden. However, there is much more to it than simply putting food out on a bird table. There are three essential things you need to provide in order to encourage the many varieties of birds into your garden – food, water and places to nest and roost.
As well as the food you might provide, birds also eat a variety of insect food. Providing hedges of native plants in your garden including evergreen plants will support the most insect food for your birds and provide them with ideal places to nest. But remember never cut your hedges between the months of March and July as you may well disturb nesting birds.
Other good nesting sites include climbers and shrubs trained against walls and fences. Jasmine and honeysuckle which grow rapidly during the summer months provide ideal cover for nests. Pyracantha and cotoneaster, as well as providing cover, also provide winter food in the form of berries.
Trees in a garden will provide your resident birds with lookout perches and song posts, particularly for blackbirds and song thrushes, as well as perfect nesting sites. Trees are also a good source of food for birds. Native trees, in particular birch, oak and willow, support far more species of insect than non-native trees.
Water is also important. Whether you have a pond or a bird bath, it needs to be easily accessible for birds to bath in as well as drink from. It is also important in freezing weather to make sure you water supply doesn’t remain frozen.
Different birds eat different things. Some eat insects and worms, while others prefer berries, seeds and fruits. Whatever birds you have in your garden, you can encourage them to stay by feeding them from outdoor planters a bird table or hanging bird feeder. If you do start to feed the birds in your garden, make sure you feed them all year round as they will become dependent on you as a source of food. When using a hanging bird feeder, make sure it stands well away from buildings or bushes where predators such as cats may lurk.
You can also make sure that you have plants growing in your garden which provide food for birds – apple, hawthorn, holly, ivy, privet, rose and rowan, as well as dandelion, grasses, thistle and sunflower are among their favourites. If you don’t already have any of these plants in your garden, grow them in and dot them around the garden. The more food you provide, the more birds you will have.
The consequences may not always be tasteful, but encouraging smaller song birds into your garden may also attract raptors such as sparrow hawks and kestrels. These are beautiful birds and not always easy to spot. The distress calls of birds in your garden will alert you to their presence.
Making your garden bird friendly will not only reward you with the sight and sounds of the many and varied bird species we have in this country, but will benefit your garden too. Birds are an important part of the wildlife in a garden and are always a good indication of how wildlife healthy your garden is.
Source: Jo Poultney