A garden full of the sound of bird song is many homeowners’ dream, but that dream doesn’t always become reality. Sometimes, no matter how you try, you may find that your garden remains void of an array of feathered friends to bring your property to life. Creating a safe space for birds is vital for them to visit (and hopefully stay!) in your garden for the long term. Luckily, attracting birds to your garden isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here’s how to encourage birds into your garden in just a few simple steps.
Use A Range of Feeders
If you’re wondering how to encourage birds into your garden, the easiest way is by hanging bird feeders. Different species of birds have different feeding preferences. Because of this, a great answer to how to attract birds to your garden is by using a range of feeders.
You can choose from bird feeders for specific species, feeding stations for a range of different birds, or bird tables for a host of wild birds. On the other hand, if you don’t have a large garden, you can opt for feeders that attach to your window so you can get a close-up view of your new visitors.
By incorporating a range of these feeder options, you can look forward to seeing a variety of bird species in your garden. Whichever feeders you choose, it may be in your best interest to include a feeder tray. This will catch any fallen food and give birds that prefer to ground feed a safer place to do so.
Decide On Where To Hang Bird Feeders
Once you have chosen which feeders you want to include in your garden, you have to place them in the right spot to ensure that the birds will come to them. Ideally, your feeders need to be somewhere:
- Quiet – Away from heavy foot traffic in your garden so birds won’t be disturbed
- Safe – Away from potential places for predators to lurk, such as bushes where cats could hide, but not too far away that birds won’t have somewhere to fly to if a predator approaches them in the open.
- Sheltered – Protected from harsh winds and other extreme weathers
- Near A Window – Not only does placing your feeders near a window allow you to observe any visiting birds, but it also means that any birds that take off and accidently fly into the window will not do so at top speed and so have less chance of serious injury.
Provide A Variety of Food
Once your feeders are situated, it’s time to fill them! But, choosing the best wild bird food to leave out depends greatly on the season. For example, in spring and summer, natural food sources are abounded for birds, so you won’t want to leave out too much food since it will go to waste. However, in winter, the insects, fruit and plants that birds eat will have depleted drastically, so they will need fattier foods much more often.
Some good foods to leave out for garden birds in the spring and summer include:
- Black sunflower seeds
- Seed mixtures
- Fat bars
- Soaked sultanas
- Soaked raisins
- Soaked currants
- Tinned pet foods[i]
The best foods to leave out for garden birds in autumn and winter are:
- Black sunflower seeds
- Mixed seeds
- Niger seeds
- Soft fruits
- Grated cheese
- Food scraps[ii]
Learn more about the different types of bird food.
Although it may take some time for birds to approach your feeder, once they realise it’s there, they are highly likely to return. So, ensure you keep your feeders topped up and free of mouldy food to encourage birds into your garden.
Leave Out Fresh Water
As well as a steady food supply, birds need plenty of fresh water. They use it to drink and bathe in, and a readily available source makes it much easier in extreme weathers.
Natural water sources can freeze over in the winter and can be harder to find in summer. So, whether you’re trying to attract autumn birds to your garden or want to encourage in some activity for summer, leaving out fresh water in your garden means local birds won’t have to travel far to get their hydration.
If you have the room in your garden, you may want to leave out a bird bath filled with water, since this allows birds to bathe and drink at a safe distance away from predators. However, a bowl with a rim will do the job just as well. Place your bird bath somewhere in the shade with plenty of space around it. This way, birds can watch out for predators and have enough time to fly away while drinking and bathing.
Since a bird bath will be regularly used, it’s best to clean it out 2 – 3 times a week with a quick jet of water, and give it a deep clean every couple of months. Even if you don’t clean it as regularly as this, try and refill your bird bath with fresh water every 3 – 4 days.
Give Them Somewhere To Nest
As well as giving birds a secure place to feed, providing a safe nesting spot is a sure way of encouraging birds into your garden. One of the easiest ways of doing this is by hanging a few nesting boxes in quiet, sheltered parts of your garden out of reach of predators.
The best place to hang a nesting box is somewhere that faces between the north and east, since this positioning should protect it from extreme winds and direct sunlight.
Just like feeders, different birds prefer different nesting boxes. The most common nesting boxes that you can use are:
- Open Front Nest Box – Preferred by wrens, robins and pied wagtails, an open front nest box can be attached to trees, fences and walls as long as they are covered by shrubs or vegetation. Ideally, these should be placed only a few metres from the ground.
- Small Hole Nest Box – This traditional nesting box is the most popular, and can be used by a varied range of small garden birds. For the safest spot, place a small hole nest box around 2 – 4 metres up a wall or tree.
- Sparrow Terrace – Suitable for sparrows who breed in colonies, a sparrow terrace is a larger nesting box than the rest. For best protection, you should place these high up beneath the eaves of your roof.
Find out the best place to position a nest box.
Leave Out Nesting Materials
Hanging up nesting boxes is a great way of encouraging birds to nest in your garden. However, birds will be more willing to follow their natural instincts and build their own nests. By regularly leaving out nesting materials around your garden, birds will be encouraged to collect them and likely nest nearby, especially if you’ve added feeders to your garden.
Some of the best nesting materials to put out for birds are:
- Pine needles
- Grass clippings
- Plant stems
- Groomed animal fur
Plant For The Birds
Birds are always looking out for natural resources, and a range of bird-friendly plants and trees mean that they can find them in your garden. A variety of trees and plants provide birds with protection, shelter and food, giving them a natural alternative to feeders and nest boxes. So, if you have green fingers, try and include some plants and trees that attract birds in your garden.
Some of the best plants to attract birds include:
Some of the best trees that attract birds are:
- Silver birch
Keep Cats Away
Cats are one of bird’s biggest predators, with an estimated 27 million birds falling prey to our felines every spring and
summer[iii]. To keep birds coming to your feeder, it’s vital that you take steps to keep cats away. Whether you’re a proud cat owner who’s trying to deter your own pets or you have some unwanted visitors into your garden, here are our tips on how to keep cats away from bird feeders:
- Add a bell to your cat’s collar
- Install a Catwatch Ultrasonic Cat Deterrent – This device is recommended by the RSPB because it uses ultrasonic bursts to deter cats without harming them.
- Keep your cats indoors at vulnerable times – Birds are usually most active around an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset, so try and keep your cats indoors during these times.
Encouraging Birds To Stay In Your Garden
Unfortunately, the populations of our garden birds have been steadily declining over recent years. According to the RSPB’s most recent study, there are now 19 million fewer pairs of breeding birds in the UK than there was in the 1960’s, when regular monitoring first began. Although there are many factors that have contributed to this rapid decline, habitat loss is believed to be a huge part of the problem.
However, by simply setting up feeders in your garden and giving birds a place to nest, you can help play a part in reversing the population reduction. With our advice on how to encourage birds into your garden, you should soon see plenty of wild birds in your garden, and they’ll be there to stay!
Do you know how to encourage birds into your garden? Have you found an interesting method that birds simply can’t resist? Let us know your tips and tricks!