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So you want to know how to attract birds? This guide gives you the essential tips that can turn you and your family into budding ornithological explorers. By the end of this short guide, you will understand a little more in how you can make your garden a paradise for attracting feathered visitors.
All too often we see reports and mainstream media campaigns which highlight the destruction brought on the natural world by humankind; whether it be new build development sites which cut down hoards of trees, the growth of popular foods like soya and avocados which lead to vast deforestation overseas, or the extreme use of garden management chemicals which might help your carrots to grow bigger, but which have a detrimental impact on wildlife.
The simple fact is that as a species, humans often cause more damage than necessary in trying to build and grow positive things. So, what can we do to help our native and local wildlife – learn how to attract birds to the relative safety of our gardens. (Keep Mr Mittens inside though)
Your garden is your sanctuary and outdoor space, and as such is yours to use and furnish as you see fit. One of the best things about garden spaces across the UK is the huge variation in styles, leading to the support of different types of wildlife: whether that be birds, hedgehogs, fish, or rare species like great crested newts. You might think little of the bonfire pile in the back corner of your garden, but that pile of twigs and dead wood could be home to a family of hedgehogs. And that old solid wood bench might be rotting away next to your patio, but underneath it could live a group of great crested newts.
Gardens are our own outdoor spaces, but they can also provide safe havens for wildlife and for nature, including Britain’s favourite bird species.
If you want to know how to attract birds, there are three main things that birds need to find in your garden, in order for it to be deemed a safe place for them to live, breed, and feed. Those three things are:
In order to provide a sanctuary and a home for birds in your garden, it is important to focus on how you can support all three of these vital needs. It’s all very well to install a bird box or hang a bird feeder, but if you cannot support all three needs then it is unlikely that many birds will spend extended periods of time in your garden.
So often we find that people seek ways of bringing birds into their garden primarily for their own enjoyment. There is little else as relaxing and calming as listening to birds sing in your garden or watching them and trying to identify them as they move around your green space. However, it’s not all about the interest and aesthetic beauty that birds can bring.
One of the main benefits of bringing and attracting birds into your garden is the effect they can have on those pests which wreak havoc on your vegetables and plants, including insects, rodents, and unwanted weeds. The fact is that by inviting and attracting birds into your garden, you will immediately benefit from their natural status in the food chain, with everyday birds feasting on insects and worms as well as garden weeds, while larger birds like owls and hawks tuck into much larger rodents and keep them away from your home. Just be careful not to allow your family or neighbourhood pet – most often a cat – overtake your garden birds and add another unwanted level to the food chain!
Another benefit is flower pollination and the simple idea that birds who feed on plant nectar will inevitably spread the flower’s pollen further afield and help promote more growth in your garden and beyond. Not only does this enhance the colour in your garden, but it will also serve to attract more birds and also support the natural and wild bee population in your area.
Source: Brittanica Encyclopedia
Now we have explored the benefits of attracting birds to your garden, you might well be itching to go out and get yourself a bird table filled with nuts and seeds. But hold back: this next section looks at six of the best ways to encourage and attract birds into your garden, and (SPOILER ALERT) they aren’t all bird feed related. Here’s how to attract birds:
This is a great option for those on a budget or who may not have a nearby store able to sell bird food products. Homemade fat balls are a good example of a food product which is cheap and easy for you to make, and which provides a really sustainable source of energy which can support multiple garden birds through the cold UK winters. To make these, simply mix together lard or suet with peanut butter, seeds and other light bird feed mixes, mould it, and then hang it from a tree or a bush.
When it comes to hanging your fat balls, take extra care to ensure that your food balls are hung high enough from the ground that they don’t put feeding birds at risk of attack from cats and other predators, and ideally located them close to a densely covered bush or hedge for the birds to hide in and dart back into should a predator come along.
Choosing the right bird box for your garden will require some prior knowledge as to which birds are hanging around your garden. The bird and nesting box market is filled with boxes of all different shapes and sizes, with different sized holes suitable for different species of bird. If you aren’t sure what you have in your garden, or you wish to diversify your bird population, install a few different boxes in small clusters to allow for nesting in colonies and to encourage different birds.
When hanging your boxes, ensure that the entrance is easy to access and high enough that it cannot become subject to predator attack. It is also important to ensure that the opening is not directed towards adverse weather conditions or wind, so where possible install your box somewhere a little shielded or protected from the weather.
Water for birds provides both an opportunity for bathing and for drinking, so it’s super important that you not only provide adequate water but also keep it refreshed and, especially over the winter, keep checking to make sure it hasn’t frozen over. The problem during the winter months for small birds is that every natural water source becomes frozen with ice, and so many bird species fall foul of a lack of water which can be fatal or cause intense exhaustion. Do your bit by providing a water bath with a clean supply of water all year round.
There is a fine line between a manicured garden and one which is great for wildlife and birds – and the difference between the two can be as minor as the density of your hedgerows. If you are the kind of person who trims hedgerows back and likes to keep a consistent thickness around your garden, consider the value of expanding those bushes a little to serve as extra coverage for nesting birds. The more nooks and crannies and hidden places that you can provide for UK birds, the better – and the more likely that they will come back to your garden when it is time for nesting.
This is another one for those looking at supporting garden birds through their role in the food chain, by giving insects an ideal ground for breeding and living and thus providing plenty of natural food for insect-eating birds and other wildlife. This is also a fun activity to partake in as a family looking to learn how to attract birds. With such a wealth of guides and videos existing all over the internet, providing various ways in which you can turn old recycling and unwanted containers into important homes for insects – it can really be so much more than a short term hobby.
This is where a little extra knowledge about plants and annual plants can come in handy, as many find that their garden is filled with colour and forage in the Spring and Summer, but completely dies off in the Winter months. In order to support birds all year round, consider which plants you can add to your garden which will provide birds with seeds throughout the year so that they are never without a source of food. This can then be further supplemented during those winter months with bird feeders and our homemade fat balls.
One of the best things about almost all of these tips, is that they don’t just support birds but other wildlife too. For example, you may only see birds feeding on the insects and using the water pools during the day, but at night those sources of food and water may well be being used by nocturnal creates like badgers and hedgehogs, and even bats. If you want to learn more about what’s using your garden and when, consider installing some night cameras to capture your garden in its natural state.
In terms of the birds you can expect to attract, this is just as likely to depend on your location and the time of year, as what steps you take to protect and nurture your garden’s birdlife. However if you are yearning to know how to attract birds, you will probably want to know what you can hope to see too. Some of the top species to look out for all year round include:
And many, many more. For more information on spotting British garden birds and identifying native and local birds in your garden and beyond, check back to our bird feeders site for more blogs, articles, and guides!