Five ways to encourage wild birds into your garden

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Bird Watching magazine presents five easy steps you can take to encourage wild birds to feed and breed in your garden.

Blackbird with apple in snowBlackbirds will appreciate old apples left on the ground outside

The types of birds we see in our gardens are, for the most part, species that would otherwise be living in woodland, or on woodland edges.

Some may still use such habitat in which to nest, but are attracted to our gardens in search of food, while others feed, drink, bathe, roost and nest just yards from our back doors.

To maximise your chances of getting a wide variety of species, and good numbers of birds, follow as many of these tips as you can.

1. Bird feeders with a variety of foods – seeds, nuts, fat balls, etc – will always attract birds. Remember to clean them thoroughly and regularly, and place them close to or even half concealed by cover, such as a bush, to enable birds to escape predators. Read more about what to feed garden birds.

2. Don’t forget to provide water. A pond is great, a birdbath fine, but even an upturned bin-lid or frisbee filled with water provides somewhere to bathe and drink. Find out how to make a wildlife pond.

3. Be careful with putting out waste food. Bread, for example, has little nutritional value for birds. Out of date apples and other fruit, on the other hand, will always prove popular, especially with blackbirds, thrushes and the like.

Bird house4. Provide natural food too. Berry-bearing trees and shrubs, such as rowan or cotoneaster, provide vital winter food, but all small birds also need insects in spring and summer, to feed their young. Try to leave an area of your garden to grow a little wild, to encourage this, and a pond will work wonders. Read more about planting to attract birds into your garden.

5. Nestboxes will be used by many species. Put new ones up in autumn, and clean out your old ones at the same time, giving birds plenty of time to find and move into them. Don’t cut hedges and shrubs back close in the breeding season (March-July), to avoid exposing nests.

With patience, a little luck, and perhaps the helping hand of a feeder or two, it’s easily possible to see our top 20 garden birds (PDF) within a relatively short space of time, even if, like most of us, you live in a town, city, or suburb. Why not try ticking each species as you see it?

Bid Watching magazineTo learn more about the birds in your garden, and how to become a better birdwatcher, join Bird Watching Basics, the free bird watching course in Bird Watching magazine. Our first issue, with more advice about how to get started and how to build your own nest box, is on sale now.

And you can sign up for Bird Watching Basics' free course emails and receive a free subscription to Rare Bird Alert app to help you make the most of your new found knowledge here:

Subscribe to our free weekly newsletter for more great tips like this, plus recipes, prize draws and much more.


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