When you imagine the ultimate wildlife garden, one of the first things you’ll visualise is birds foraging around, eating insects and making nests. That’s why we’ve put together this extensive guide on how to attract birds so you can have the ultimate wildlife garden.
There are a number of ways you can attract birds into your garden. You can provide them with a source of food in feeders and on tables. You can also provide birds with a water source and a place to nest.
Don’t worry, this guide is a lot more in-depth than that! Below you’ll find a full run down on exactly what it is you need to do to attract more birds into your garden. But first…
Why Should You Attract Birds?
As a gardener, one of the most important reasons for attracting birds is that they can keep pests in check. Birds will eat caterpillars and aphids, two of the most common garden pests.
A regular bird population in your garden will keep their numbers reduced which also means you don’t need to use insecticides to deal with pests.
Perhaps selfishly, but having birds in your garden is also relaxing. Whether it’s morning bird song or just the sight of birds, there’s no denying that the presence of most birds is calming and peaceful.
Natural bird habitats are also being reduced as huge urban housing and industrial estates continue to be developed. This is why gardens are more important than ever in providing birds with somewhere they can feed, nest and forage.
How to Attract Birds
Below, we have outlined 5 things you should be doing if you want to encourage more and more birds to visit your garden. Most of them are fairly straightforward thankfully:
Install Bird Feeders and Tables
This has got to be the most obvious way to attract birds to your garden. The number one reason any bird is going to visit your garden is for food. By installing bird feeders and tables, you can easily provide food to a wide range of birds.
The big mistake that people make when putting food out for birds is not providing any variety. If you fill a feeder with peanuts or limit the food to seeds then you’re not going to cast a wide net and will limit the birds you attract.
If you really want to succeed at attracting birds to your garden then try to use a combination of the following:
Seeds and Grains – Small seeds such as millet and linseed will attract common birds to your garden including sparrows, dunnocks and finches. Sunflower seeds are preferred by tits.
If you have a reputable garden centre locally then they will often stock a good seed mix that can be used year-round to attract a variety of birds.
Suet and Fat Balls – These are excellent for winter feeding as they allow birds to build up their energy reserves. They’re usually made up of melted suet or lard combined with a mixture of seeds and nuts.
If you find that your fat balls are disappearing overnight then you may find you have a greedy magpie who can consume huge chunks in little time at all!
Peanuts – And no, you can’t just grab a few salted peanuts out of your kitchen cupboard and feed these to birds! Instead, peanuts need to be unsalted and purchased from a reputable supplier as they must be free from aflatoxin.
When putting peanuts out, you should avoid doing so on a table where a bird is at risk of choking. Instead, put them in a mesh feeder where birds can peck at them.
Insects – Mealworms are the go-to insect to feed birds and are particularly enjoyed by robins and blue tits. If you’re looking to attract birds over the long term then mealworms can become quite an expensive approach to take, however.
Bread and Cooked Potatoes – If you have a bird table then leftover food items such as cooked, boiled potatoes and stale bread are great things to put out.
Try to cut the food up into small morsels so that it’s easy for a bird to grab. They’re not going to fly off with a whole slice of bread!
It’s worth noting that bird seed does go bad eventually. If you’re unsure how successful you will be at enticing birds into your garden then start with a small bag of bird seed to see how you get on.
If birds don’t feel that your feeder is safe then they will avoid it. Make sure you place your feeder up high, ideally in a tree with some protection. They’ll also avoid the feeder if it is new so give them time.
Squirrels are very talented at finding their way into a feeder, no matter what you try. You can try and place the feeder up high away from a structure they can climb up. You can also buy feeders that shut when a certain weight is applied to them.
Add a Water Source
No, you don’t have to dig a 10-foot-deep pond in your garden to supply water to birds. Even a small bucket filled with water in a small garden is ample.
When adding any form of water to your garden for birds, there are a few things you need to consider:
- It needs to be shallow enough, in areas, that a bird can perch in the water without drowning and it needs to have sloping slides so that they can easily make their way out of the water.
- The surface of the container should be rough, at least in parts, to give birds something to grip onto when they want to exit.
- Size really doesn’t matter when it comes to providing water but you do need to ensure you keep it topped up. A flock of birds can quickly empty a bird bath.
- The water source must also be somewhere safe for a bird. It must be near shrubs and trees that they can escape to if necessary but it must also have clear sightlines for them to see any approaching predators.
Provide Nesting Spots
Nesting spots can be provided in a few ways. You can install bird boxes or swift bricks which birds can use to nest in. You can also ensure you have tall, dense shrubs and trees in which birds can nest.
The other thing you need to do is ensure you keep your garden a little messy at times. Stop clearing up all those leaves and twigs. Instead, let birds collect them so they can build their nests.
Grow 6 Bird-Friendly Plants
Although we often plant up our gardens for bees and other pollinators, it’s also worth adding in a few plants that are bird-friendly too. Below are our top 6 options for creating a bird-friendly area:
Holly – Birds love the berries produced by holly bushes as they provide them with food deep into the cold, winter months.
If you do plant on planting holly, you’ll need to ensure you have both a female and male plant. Only the female plant will have berries on it but it will need a male plant for pollination.
Honeysuckle – Honeysuckle just goes to show that you can have a visually stunning plant that’s also friendly to birds. As it’s a climber, it works great in small gardens that have a fence or wall in direct sunlight.
Honeysuckle is another plant that’s loved by birds in the colder months when the flowers become berries. Once the plant is established, it can also provide shelter for birds.
Ivy – Ivy is one of the best plants to grow for birds. Not only does it produce berries that they love to eat but lots of insects also love ivy. Those insects are also food for birds.
Rowan – When planting things for birds, you want to try and provide them with food deep into winter. Insects are easy to come by in summer but as the temperature drops, food is harder to come by.
If you’re going to plant rowan, try to pick a variety that produces berries in the winter such as Sorbus Torminalis.
Teasel – In Autumn, teasel forms huge seed heads that provide architectural interest to wild flower beds… But they’re also loaded with seeds that birds love to devour. Finches and sparrows are particularly fond of the seeds.
Sunflower – Sunflowers prove, again, that not all plants for birds have to look like hedgerows or forests. As the flowers fade, don’t cut them down but leave them to dry out in the sun. The seeds in the centre of the flower are the perfect food for birds such as finches and tits.
Keep Predators Away
Most predators cannot be controlled and are simply part of nature. Foxes, for example, might attack, kill and eat birds but there’s unlikely to be an awful lot you can do about it.
There is one predator that birds do have to deal with. A predator that’s not native. A predator that birds might be unaware of: Cats! After all, they are responsible for around 27 million bird deaths.
Firstly, if you have a pet cat that is allowed out in the garden then it might be a good idea to avoid attracting birds. All you will be doing is luring them to their potential death.
When it comes to attracting wildlife to a garden, birds are both at the top of people’s lists and also one of the easiest forms of wildlife to attract. All you need to do is provide them with food in a feeder or a table along with some source of water.