Gardener's Corner - How to encourage birds
In my experience the most effective way of encouraging birds into your garden is to make sure your feeders are well stocked. Fat balls are always a popular choice, I would recommend buying them in bulk to reduce the likelihood of any unsatisfied visitors! Fat balls will be enjoyed by birds and squirrels, this week alone I’ve seen Crows, Wood Pigeons, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Black Birds, Dunnocks, Jays and Robins on mine. Fat balls can be messy so I would think carefully about where you place your feeder. Whilst smaller garden birds and squirrels will grasp onto the wires, larger birds, including blackbirds, are ground feeders and won’t be able to get at the balls if they don’t have a perch to stand on. A few weeks ago I brought a refillable bird house shaped feeder from Wilko, this has been popular with small birds and doesn’t seem to have generated much mess.
If you’ve had any pest problems, such as Sawfly Larvae on your roses, my top tip is to position your feeder as close to the bush as possible. Smaller birds feel safer feeding in a sheltered spot and as the larvae begin to emerge the birds will already be there to help you out!
Mixed seed feeders are also a good source of energy for garden birds, seed can be scattered on a bird table or hung up in a feeder. If you have squirrels in your garden I would recommend getting a feeder with metal covered openings. Whilst the plastic ones might be a little cheaper, enthusiastic squirrels will munch their way through the plastic options and you’ll find yourself replacing them next year. You can also get Perspex feeders that will stick to your windows with suction pads. These are perfect if you have a balcony or window overlooking the garden or communal space. It’s a good idea to tie a piece of string to these feeders and trap it in a closed window, this way if the suction cups fail or a larger bird tries to land on your feeder its less likely to fall.
If you would like to encourage a specific species of bird there are more gourmet seed options out there. Goldfinches are some of the most attractive garden birds we get in the UK and they prefer Niger seeds. As they may not notice the feeder straight away, one useful tip is to push the head of a teasel flower, their natural food, into one of the holes of the feeder as an indicator. You could also grow teasels in your garden. If you are worried about the birds making a mess on your lawn or patio you can purchase sunflower hearts, these are loved by goldfinches and other small birds. If you have parakeets in your area you can also purchase tropical bird food mixes to encourage them into your garden.
As more and more birds begin to visit your garden you might want to consider introducing nest boxes. The recommended direction to place a box is north-east, as this provides protection against direct sunlight, wind and rain. You should look to place the bird house somewhere that is safe from predators and well out of the way of regular foot traffic. If the bird house is too close to your home it is unlikely that they will feel safe enough to nest. You can put up your bird box at any time of year, however it is something that is normally done in the autumn or early winter as some birds will start looking for their new home as early as January.
For more tips and tricks for encourage birds into your garden why not visit the RSPB website. The RSPB also have a useful guide to identifying bird by eye or by their calls, I would also recommend the app BirdNET as a tool for identifying bird calls.