If, like me, you have a garden, you don’t want the fruits of all your hard work providing a tasty larder for all the insect pests nearby. Rather than reaching for the insecticide it’s much better to let nature to do the work for you. This means attracting birds to your garden and keeping them there. Here are 4 simple ways to make garden birds happy.
Feed garden birds through the winter.
There are many different designs of bird table available, but choose one that cats cannot climb. The most important design feature to look for is some form of roof or covered area to keep the food dry. A raised lip around the edge will stop food falling onto the ground. These should be a small gap in this raised lip to allow collected rainwater to drain away. The table should also be large enough to take a water dish.
Bird feeding stations are a good alternative to a table, especially if you don’t have a lot of room. They are relatively cheap to buy and easy to install. If you have the room you can have several placed in different areas around your garden to attract even more birds.
Don’t set your bird table or feeding stations too close to a wall or fence or anywhere near where a cat can climb or jump onto it. Place it where you can easily see the birds. You will want to enjoy watching and counting the number of different species that will come. And come they will if you keep your bird table well stocked.
Keep your bird table and feeders well stocked.
A wide range of different food will encourage many different bird species into your garden. It may take a week or two for some of the shy species to arrive at the banquet but they will arrive. So be patient and keep the food coming.
Bread scraps, stale cake, peanuts, old cheese and bought wild bird food will attract the more common species such as blue tits, great tits, chaffinch, greenfinch, robin, blackbird, starling and sparrows. Shy and less common species, such as wrens, nuthatches, siskins, bullfinches, goldfinches and wagtails will also come if you keep your table and feeders well stocked.
Finches appreciate seeds more than nuts as they are seed-eaters. They also seem to find feeders more attractive than tables. So if you spread some feeders full of seeds around your garden you will find that all sorts of finches will check them out on a daily basis. Again make sure any feeders are out of reach of cats. And place them away from areas where cats can hide in wait. Don’t forget to keep the water dishes free from ice on frosty days.
Having gone to all that trouble to attract birds to our garden over winter, if we are to benefit from their presence during the spring and summer, we must persuade them to stay. The best way to do this is to provide them with somewhere suitable to build their nests.
Provide garden birds with suitable places for nest building.
The best way to do this is to plant hedges, shrubs and trees. This will provide garden birds with cover, nesting sites and food. Shrubs such as Berberis, Cotoneaster and Pyracantha are ideal for berry-eaters such as blackbirds and thrushes. These birds will also hoover up your slugs and snails. Conifer and laurel hedges give dense cover for nesting finches, wrens and blackbirds and for summer visitors such as flycatchers and warblers.
Unfortunately many gardens are too small for a lot of shrubs and have wooden fences instead of hedges. Or the plants are not yet large enough for nesting sites. Instead we can put up nesting boxes. As with bird tables, there are a lot of different designs on the market, some of which are really only garden accessories and totally unsuitable for any bird.
A lot of careful thought needs to go into the choice and siting of nest boxes if they are to be successful. For good weather protection the box should be made from a sturdy exterior grade plywood or similar material. It should have a sloping roof to throw off rain. Dimensions of 22cm/8.5in by 17cm/6.5in should be adequate for most birds.
To attract voracious insectivores like robins, wagtails and spotted flycatchers, the front of the box need only be half boarded. Fully boarded boxes with an entrance hole will attract smaller birds such as tits and nuthatches. A small entrance hole gives nesting birds a greater sense of security. It also deters predators such as rats and larger birds such as magpies.
When siting your chosen nest box put it in a secluded place where there is plenty of perching spots and natural cover and out of reach of cats. Also do not put the box too close to garden paths or where it is likely to be regularly disturbed. The birds may ignore it or, worse, build a nest then abandon the eggs or babies. Birds, like humans, enjoy their privacy.
Grow some flowering plants.
Beds and borders full of flowers from spring to autumn will attract insects and provide seeds for our birds to eat. The flowering plants don’t need to be native wildflowers. But they should be nectar and pollen rich if they are to attract insects. This means planting annuals, biennials and perennials that are species plants or selected varieties that are close to the original species.
Most of these types of plants have single and open flowers, such as those belonging to the daisy family. You can enjoy the flowers and watching the birds. The birds can enjoy the insects.
If you have provided lots of cover, nesting sites and flowering plants it should not be necessary to keep feeding your garden birds through the spring and summer months. But you may want to provide some food, such as seeds, during cold snaps and in very dry or hot periods if insects are scarce.
Indeed, it can be harmful to put certain types of food out at this time of year. Dried bread fed to baby birds by their parents can swell up in tiny stomachs causing death. Peanuts fed whole to blue tit chicks can lodge in their throats and crops causing choking and blockages. But make sure you keep providing fresh water throughout the year.
The idea is that your garden birds hunt for insects in their adopted garden during the spring and summer. You take a small amount of time to feed them during the hard times. They repay you by keeping your garden free from troublesome pests.
You should not need any poisonous chemical pesticides if you follow these 4 simple ways to make garden birds happy . By gardening in harmony with nature you will have more time to enjoy your garden and save some money. You will also help to conserve and protect your native wildlife and countryside, even if you live in a town or city.
Nowadays, I leave the insecticides on the garden store shelf. I bought a feeding station and some nesting boxes, allowed my hedges to grow a bit wild and let the birds do the work instead.