In the UK alone, there are 626 species of birds[i], and everyone has the chance to welcome any of these 626 species into their own back garden. There are plenty of benefits to having birds in your garden – not only is it nice to watch and hear them, but they eat pesky bugs and insects, pull up weeds and help to pollinate your flowers. Also, letting them have free reign over your garden means you are providing them with a safe feeding and nesting spot, therefore helping their conservation and future.
But, to get all these benefits, first you have to get those birds into your garden! Luckily, this is a fairly easy task no matter where you live or the size of your garden, so take a look at our tips to get you on your way to a feathered paradise.
Why Are There No Birds In My Garden?
Let’s start with what’s keeping the birds out in the first place, so you’re aware of what you may have to do to make it safe for them.
There are predators in your garden
If a predator lives or has moved into the area, they will avoid your garden because their safety will be threatened. There are many animals that hunt birds, including
- Other birds (specifically sparrowhawks)
Any one of them could make birds disappear from your garden almost overnight. Despite this, once winter rolls in and their natural food sources become sparse, birds will undoubtedly take respite in your garden. If they have a safe shelter and plenty of food, they will likely stay throughout autumn and winter to prepare for the next breeding season.
It’s time for them to moult
Once breeding season is over, hormonal changes and the tired feathers that the season causes culminate in the moulting of birds old feathers. During this time, all their damaged or worn-out feathers are lost and replaced with new ones strong enough to survive the winter, when their feathers are most important to keep them warm. This is also the time that younger birds will lose their baby plumage and grow their adult feathers. When moulting is occurring, birds are vulnerable and will hide in hedges or bushes away from threats. This can take anywhere up to eight weeks, so you may not see many garden birds during this time.
They already have enough food
Birds prefer to forage for seeds, grass, fruit, berries and insects, and these natural food sources are readily available throughout summer in open spaces. This means that they are less likely to need your garden during this time, although you can still leave a little food out if you wish. Ensure that it doesn’t spoil in the heat as this could attract rats, which have been known to eat birds. If you have a bird bath or another source of water for them, make sure you keep this topped up so any birds that do pass by will have a fresh supply to drink and bathe in.
What To Feed Garden Birds?
Bird feeders are possibly the best way to encourage birds into your garden, and there are plenty on the market to attract all kinds of birds, so the choice is entirely yours. Feeders can also be made out of things like plastic bottles, paper plates and cardboard rolls, so you can also recycle old matter to help create your wildlife garden – this is also a great project to do with kids. There are some ideas for this here. You can fill your feeders with a variety of foods such as:[ii]
- Sunflower seeds
- Soaked sultanas, raisins and currants
- Suet balls (perfect for winter)
- Seed mixtures
- Soaked dog or cat food (though this may attract predators)
- Soft fruits like apples, pears or bananas, cut up
Although birds will often forage for themselves through summer, food shortages can occur at any time of the year, so keeping a little food out even if there are no birds coming into your garden could be beneficial, especially for their young. Just make sure that any gone off food is removed quickly.
How To Attract Birds to a Feeder
To attract multiple species of birds to your feeders:
- Set up several and fill them with different types of food.
- Make sure you place them at different levels as some birds, such as blackbirds and robins, prefer to feed from the ground rather than the trees.
- Make sure that the feeders are regularly cleaned of debris and mouldy seed, kept topped up and, if possible, place them near hedges or trees so the birds can run for cover when feeding if they need to.
Keeping fresh water in your garden, and refilling it regularly, is also a good idea for them to drink and bathe in. It might take a while for the birds to come to your feeders, but it is highly likely that they will return once they know the food is there.
Add Bird Friendly Plants
Plants and trees not only provide birds with natural food sources but also give them safe places to hide and nest, so if you would like birds in your garden, this is a good step to take. You need to provide a range of habitats and feeding sources, so you could include:[iii] [iv]
These bright flowers have seeds packed into their centres, meaning they will attract seed-eating birds like Finches, Nuthatches and Long-tailed Tits.
During autumn, this climber provides birds such as Bullfinches, Thrushes and Warblers with berries and shelter. The flowers also attract insects throughout summer, providing a variety of birds with food.
Holly berries tend to ripen by autumn, but birds like Blackbirds, Redwings, Fieldfares and Song Thrushes don’t usually go for them until late winter, so it is still a good idea to add them to your garden.
Haw berries attract many species including:
Due to this, they would make a valuable contribution to your wildlife garden. The leaves are also the food source for caterpillars, meaning it will provide baby birds with food in spring.
You have a choice between the hedging rose and the dog rose here. The hedging rose produces large rose haws that are eaten by Mistle Thrushes, Blackbirds and Fieldfares, whereas the smaller haws from the dog rose not only stay juicy until late winter, when your garden will be more populated, but are also eaten by a broader range of birds.
The blackberries that ivy grow are eaten by most birds, such as Thrushes, Jays, Blackbirds and Starlings. The flowers attract insects for the birds to eat and give them safe shelter to nest and roost.
Not only does the White Oak tree draw in many insects that birds eat, it also produces acorns during autumn, which are known to be eaten by birds such as Blue Jays and Tufted Titmice. As the foliage is dense and there are many hollows in the trunk, White Oaks are popular nesting trees.
Eastern White Pine
Some birds are known to spend most of their time around Eastern White Pine trees because of its safe shelter, colossal size and the cones it produces, which are full of seeds. These birds include Long-Eared Owl, Pine Warblers and Blackburnian Warblers.
Where Do Garden Birds Sleep at Night?
Birds mostly take shelter in high up places, like trees, thick foliage or hollows big enough for them to fit into. They tend to sleep in flocks as they are at their most vulnerable when they are asleep. If your garden isn’t populated by trees and you don’t want to plant many, there are still plenty of ways for you provide places for birds to nest.
How To Provide Places for Birds To Nest
If you are looking to bring garden birds into your garden, a great way to do this is to provide them with safe places to stay and nest. Nesting boxes and bird boxes are a popular way to do this, as is planting bushes and trees out of the way of predators for them to create a nest for themselves. If you choose to add nesting boxes, ensure you place them in sheltered, high up places in your garden to protect them from predators, and make sure they will be safe from strong winds and direct sunlight.
You can get different types of next boxes depending on the birds you would like to attract. Some of the most popular are small-holed, sparrow terraces and open-fronted as they can provide for an array of species, but you can choose the one that suits you. Place some feeders close to your nesting boxes to encourage birds to use them, but once they have found them move the feeders, so the nesting birds do not get disturbed. Garden birds nest, on average, from February to August, so keep your eye on your boxes more often at this time.
Although you will not see an abundance of birds overnight, if you are patient, these tips will help bring you to a garden full of feathered life in no time. As long as you ensure your feeders are regularly cleaned, you have provided an array of shrubbery, and your nesting boxes are a safe haven, you will soon feel the self-fulfilment of helping to conserve bird species and protect their futures. Let us know what birds you’ve caught in your garden so far!
Angela Waxler is an ex florist, a professional gardener and has been working in the industry for well over 25 years. Angela has worked with brands all over the world during her career.