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Five ways to encourage wild birds into your garden

23 October 2013 ( 04 July 2016 )

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

Encourage wild birds to feed in the garden
Encourage wild birds to feed in the garden

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.

Provide a variety of food

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

Provide a water source

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

Leave out leftovers

Think of the birds before throwing away any leftovers, but be careful. 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 Out of date apples and other fruit, on the other hand, will always prove popular, especially with blackbirds, thrushes and the like.

Plant bird-friendly plants

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

Provide nesting spaces

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 some of the most common garden birds 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?

To learn more about the birds in your garden, and how to become a better birdwatcher, subscribe to Bird Watching magazine

Visit our British birds section to find out more about garden birds


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.