Who can deny the joy of seeing birds in the garden – the colour, vibrance and song they bring can instantly lift the spirits. They are also very handy creatures to have in the garden, feeding on the pests that would otherwise ravage our plants.
According to the RSPB, there has been a gradual decline in the number of garden birds in the UK, so it's crucial we do all we can in our gardens to help boost numbers. Here are a few simple things you can do to play your part.
How to attract birds to your garden
Offer birds a place to perch and eat
Use bird feeders to attract birds to your garden
Installing bird feeders in your garden will help birds through the lean winter months when food is scarce. Try hanging several feeders filled with different food to attract a variety of birds.
To attract blue tits and great tits, fill the feeders with seeds, peanuts and suet. To attract chaffinches and greenfinches, use sunflower hearts.
When choosing a location for your bird feeder, hang them somewhere quiet where birds won't be disturbed, away from predators and harsh winds.
Remember, it's important to keep bird feeders clean to prevent a build of up of bacteria and viruses that can spread disease among garden birds. Scrub them out with a long bristled brush and wash them with warm soapy water. Ensure they're completely dry before refilling with food. The RSPB recommends cleaning your bird feeders every week.
Use bird tables to attract birds in your garden
Not all birds are suited to perching on a bird feeder to access food, preferring a larger space and flat surface, either up high or at ground level. Installing a bird table will help appease these birds, such as blackbirds, robins and wrens.
As with the hanging feeders, choose your location for the bird table carefully – somewhere quiet, not too windy, and away from bushes where cats can be hiding in wait.
Offer a wider range of quality bird food set up at varying heights, such as ground, table and hanging feeders – known as ‘tiered bird feeding’ – to attract a higher diversity of species.
It's advised to break up peanuts if you're placing them on a table. Serving them 'neat' means they're not being broken up through the pecking action required by a feeder and so will be difficult for the smaller birds to consume.
Provide a bath and drinking water
It can be challenging for birds to find a drink in high summer when water dries up, and in winter when it freezes. Providing a source of water for birds in your garden will help them thrive during these trickier months.
An attractive way to provide water for birds is to install a bird bath. When choosing a spot, it's important to remember that birds are at their most vulnerable to predators when bathing, so place the bird bath at least two metres from cover, such as a hedge, tree or shrub. This means they will spot the bird bath easily, but can dart for cover easily if needed. If cats visit your garden, choose a bird bath that is raised high off the ground.
It's also advised to place it out of direct sunlight so that the water doesn't become too warm or uncomfortable. A shady spot will reduce evaporation and slow the growth of algae.
Grow plants that attract birds
The flowers, trees and shrubs you grow can be a vital source of food for birds during the times of year when food is scarce.
The bright red berries of Berberis vulgaris will provide a feast for thrushes, fieldfares and redwings during winter, while ivy berries will attract wood pigeons, collared doves, waxwings, thrushes, jays, starlings and finches.
Put up a bird house or bird box in the garden
If you'd like the birds to stick around a little longer, offering up a bird box is a great option for all, as no garden is too small for one.
Blue tits and house sparrows will flock to a bird box attached to the wall of a house. Simply make sure that you place it somewhere where there is low traffic from humans and pets and it's unlikely to be disturbed.
So while it might be tempting to place your bird box immediately outside your living room window or back door where you'll get maximum visibility, do be aware that the birds are smart enough to seek somewhere a little quieter.
Caught the birdwatching bug? Don't miss our round up of wonderful places to go birdwatching.
And we've put together a guide on how to create a haven for wildlife like bees and other pollinators.
Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the biggest home and entertainment brands in the world. He is a serial house-renovator and home improvement expert, taking on everything from interior design and DIY to landscape gardening and garden design.
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