Creating a haven for birds in your garden not only adds natural beauty but also contributes to the well-being of local wildlife. From choosing the right spot for a bird feeder to understanding what to feed and what to avoid, Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital provides a simple guide to make your garden a welcoming space for our avian friends.
There are many ways to make our gardens and neighbourhoods a safer place for wildlife. These do not just include creating wildlife friendly planting, putting up bird boxes and providing food. In the process of helping birds, it is possible to do more harm than good. For example, badly maintained bird boxes can harbour diseases, salt in home-made bird food can be harmful and trimming hedges at the wrong time can injure or kill birds. These garden dangers are some of the main causes of wildlife injury admissions. By being aware of these dangers and taking a few simple precautions, you can easily prevent harm or minimise the impact we have on garden wildlife.
Netting and meshes, including football nets, can cause animals to get entangled. Research alternative deterrents such as hoops or frames over plants or crops and ensure football nets are put away after use.
Chemical pesticides can work their way up the food chain, which can have fatal effects on wildlife. Try using organic solutions instead.
Rubbish should be disposed of safely. Wildlife can easily get caught in everyday objects in the garden or littered on the streets such as twine, ring can holders, plastic cartons, face masks, balloons and elastic bands. Fishing hooks and pollution can easily be swallowed or cause injury.
Pets should be kept indoors when birds are fledging the nest. Keep all feeders, nest and bird boxes away from the ground and out of reach.
Garden machinery such as strimmers and mowers should be used with caution. You should always check long grass and hedges for nesting or resting animals before cutting. Check thoroughly before undergoing house maintenance or improvements such as gutter repairs or extensions.
IDEAL BIRD FEEDER PLACEMENT
When deciding where to place your bird box or feeder, consider safety and accessibility for our feathered friends. Opt for a spot approximately 2 metres high, secured to a tree or wall, away from potential predators and pets. Ensure the feeder is in a quiet, shady area, facing between North and East to shield birds from harsh sunlight and winds. Protect nesting boxes by placing them in quiet spots amidst trees or bushes, away from busy areas. Additionally, maintain a clear flight path to the entrance and position boxes with a slight tilt for rainwater runoff.
Maintaining Bird Boxes:
Keep bird boxes clean and empty between nesting seasons (recommended between September and January). Cleaning not only prevents disease but also ensures that birds are more likely to use them for nesting. Avoid aesthetically pleasing but potentially harmful designs, prioritizing functionality for the well-being of the birds.
Attracting Birds to Nest:
Encourage birds to nest in your garden by installing bird boxes up high in quiet spots, secured to trees or posts. Provide natural shelter and perches, such as trees and shrubs. Regularly top up bird feeders and plant insect-friendly vegetation to attract their natural food sources.
Attracting small birds:
Utilise bird feeders with smaller perches or roofs to attract smaller birds. Ensure a variety of feeders to support different species. Avoid cheap seed mixtures containing large grains, as they may attract larger predatory species. It is vital you identify which species of bird you have visiting your garden to determine the most suitable location and sized house. To make birds feel welcome, safe, and comfortable, the entrance hole size is critical.
A 25 mm entry hole is best suited for smaller birds, such as blue tit, coal tit and marsh tit. A 32 mm entry hole is suitable for slightly larger garden birds like great tit, tree our house sparrow, nuthatch and lesser spotted woodpecker.
SUPPLEMENRY FEEDING TIPS
Your garden should host a great natural food source for garden birds, even if you are not a keen gardener there will be a supply of insects, berries and nuts hidden away. Providing a regular supply of supplementary food and water for the birds and other wildlife visiting your garden is important to their survival, especially during extreme weather conditions and for exhausted mothers. This simple list will help indicate which foods are appropriate for feeding some of your more common garden birds. Although, if you are lucky many of these foods may also attract rarer species, especially in times of hardship.
ATTRACTING BIRDS TO YOUR GARDEN
Sunflower seeds - These are high in protein and great for all birds in feeders or on tables.
Seed mixtures - These are particular favourites with siskins, tits, finches, sparrows, pigeons and doves. Nyjer seeds provide a great source of fat.
Peanuts - Crushed or grated nuts attract robins, tits, wrens and nuthatches.
Fruit - Cut apples, pears and berries are very popular with all thrushes, tits and starlings. Chopped raisins or sultanas are enjoyed by blackbirds, song thrushes and robins. Raisins are toxic to dogs so keep out of reach.
Compost - Compost vegetable scraps and garden waste to provide an important natural source of worms, caterpillars and insects for mammals and birds.
Bird baths - Placing a bird bath in a sheltered and shady spot in your garden could provide a welcomed drinking and bathing source all year round.
Wildlife planting - Try to provide some natural foods by growing plants that bear fruit, nuts and berries. They also provide important shelter or nesting spots.
FOODS TO AVOID OR CONTAIN WARNINGS
AVOID cheap seed mixtures that have split peas, large dog biscuits, beans, dried rice or lentils as these can attract larger predatory species.
DO NOT use salted or dry roasted peanuts these can be toxic – never put out loose peanuts during spring or summer as these pose a choking hazard if fed to chicks. Use peanut feeders or crushed nuts instead.
AVOID using cooking fat, margarines and vegetable oils when making fat balls these can smear onto feathers and contain high salt levels. Homemade fat balls can also go soft and rancid in warm summer weather and become a breeding ground for bacteria. Buy quality fat balls instead.
ALWAYS buy certified feeders. Some foods are regularly sold in mesh bags. Never put out any food in mesh bags, these may trap or injure birds.
ONLY provide small but regular amounts of dried mealworms to reduce the of risk of salmonella. Avoid leaving out mealworms for hedgehogs.
NEVER cook and leave out porridge oats, this makes a glutinous mixture and could harden around a birds beak or feet. Dry loose oats are fine.
NEVER give milk to wildlife. It can be fatal to birds and hedgehogs
Extra Feeding Tips:
Ensure a year-round supply of food, adapting to the seasonal needs of birds. Offer high-protein foods in summer and high-fat/energy foods in winter. Create multiple feeding stations to reduce competition among birds, and maintain cleanliness to prevent the spread of diseases. While supporting all wildlife is essential, consider placing feeders further down your garden to deter rats. Clean up fallen food beneath bird feeders at night to minimize the risk of attracting unwanted visitors.
If you have cats who love to prey on birds in your area it is best to avoid feeding or attracting birds to your garden to prevent attacks on birds. Read our pet safety BLOG for tips and advice to safeguard birds from pet encounters
By following these tips, you can transform your garden into a bird-friendly sanctuary, providing a safe and nourishing environment for our avian companions. With a little care and consideration, you'll be rewarded with the delightful presence of a diverse range of birds in your outdoor space.
By Asha Park