Making a bird friendly garden

Waking up to the sound of birds singing is incredibly calming and, as you start to encourage the birds into your garden, it's very rewarding to see the different species making an appearance. You don't need to have a big countryside garden either, you can attract birds to your urban or suburban garden too.

With many common bird species (such as starlings and house sparrows) in sharp decline, offering your garden as a safe place for birds, is great thing to do.

There are a number of simple steps you can take to make your garden more bird-friendly and with a little bit of effort you could soon see an increased variety of birds visiting your patch. The results are very rewarding.

1. Trees and Shrubs

Think about introducing trees and shrubs into your garden. Trees such as holly, hawthorn and rowan are perfect. If you have a small garden, shrubs may be best, as they are smaller and generally low maintenance. Those which produce berries, such as pyracantha and cotoneaster, are a favourite amongst birds as the berries provide vital energy supplies for the winter months. Shrubs and trees, especially thorny ones, provide good shelter from predators. Birds are more likely to spend time in your garden, if they know they can quickly take cover under a bush . Dense shrubs can also provide safe nesting sights.

2. Bird Feeders

Whilst shrubs and trees can produce a good natural food source in your garden, it is also a good idea to supplement this with a bird feeding station and/ or bird table. This is especially important during the harsh winter months, when other food sources are scarce, and birds need to maintain their fat reserves to see them through the frosty nights. You will soon find birds returning regularly, in the hope of a quick and easy meal. The key to increasing bird variety is to offer a range of different bird food. Whilst sparrows and wood woodpigeons enjoy mixed seeds, blue tits and great tits favour fat balls and peanuts, coal tits like sunflower seeds and robins prefer mealworms. If you want to attract goldfinches, try some nyger seeds. Always choose high quality bird food, not just supermarket peanuts or chunks of stale bread. To learn more about what food to provide at certain times of year see RSPB.

3. Water

Birds also need water to drink, bathe and to keep feathers healthy. If you're garden's not big enough for a pond, you may wish to introduce a small bird bath. During winter when other water supplies may be frozen over, or during summer months with a lack of rain, a bird bath can provide vital access to water.

It's important to change the water regularly to keep it fresh, and free from bird droppings.

4. Nest box

Whilst it's always nice for birds to create natural nest sites in your garden, such as in dense bushes, or under the eaves of your roof, you can also help your local birds by putting up a nest box. Different types of next boxes attracted different types of birds, so try to diversify. Too many of the same types of nest boxes close together can confuse birds.

Make sure your nest box faces North/East so as not in direct sunlight for most of the day. If you are struggling to attract birds, trying moving to a different location. Each winter, check the box for old nests and clean thoroughly with warm water.

Most importantly, enjoy the increased variety of wildlife in your garden, and know that you are playing your part in protecting our birdlife. Grab your binoculars and a cup of coffee and sit back and relax. You might even enjoy taking part in BTO Garden Birdwatch and contribute to important scientific research without even leaving your home.

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