Making your Garden Attractive to Birds
A garden without birds would be a sorry place and given the right environment, a wide variety of them will pass through an average-sized garden over the course of a year. Two favourite garden birds are robins and tits – robins for their friendliness and tits for their amusing antics. Both are most noticeable in gardens at this time of year before the summer visitors arrive.
Design a Garden for Birds
According to a nationwide poll, the robin is Britain’s favourite garden bird. The reason is not difficult to find. While so many of our songsters desert gardens in winter, the robin, resplendent in his red waistcoat, remains stoically guarding his territory whilst loudly singing a warbling song. If you’re a gardener, you’ll probably have a special relationship with your robin. When digging in the shrubbery he (or she) will stand close by, hoping about your feet in the hope of picking up a worm or two, sometimes even standing guard on your spade.
Robins have become virtually tame in this country, so, if you buy some mealworms from your local pet shop you may even get a one to feed from your hand. However, although these chirpy little chaps are very people friendly, they have appalling table manners, diving away other species from a communal bird table so it’s best to feed them away from your other feathered garden visitors.
On the other hand, the perfect place to watch tits perform at their best is at a bird table. Hang up a string bag or wire tube filled with peanuts, or suspend a piece of wire with a lump of fat at the end and watch them swing upside down as they acrobatically feed. To attract tits into a winter garden, feed them when food is scarce and they will reward you in summer by eating some of the infamous gardeners’ enemies – aphids, caterpillars and slugs. At this time of year, tits look for holes in walls and trees which could make satisfactory nesting sites. You can buy nesting boxes to hang in your garden to try and attract them. The entrance hole must be 3 cm across with no perch outside, make sure that it’s placed at least 2 m above the ground and watch what happens.
Even in cold weather, water is important for our all our native birds so as well as laying on food you may want to consider opening a drinks bar. They aren’t too fussy – a simple bird bath will do the trick and they won’t turn their beaks up at an old dustbin lid, just make sure it’s kept clean and unfrozen and enjoy watching them splashing about.
There’s no use peppering up your garden with feeders, bird baths and plush nesting boxes if there’s no place for our feathered friends to check out the locals and survey the general lie of the land. Gardens only become truly bird friendly if there are places for them to hide and rummage in the shrubbery. In our beautiful rural setting, think of native mixed hedges, Holly, Dog Rose, Goat Willow and Honeysuckle – all very attractive to birds.
Consider planting shrubs with berries that will feed the birds in autumn months. The common Elder, very easy to grow in the local soil, is an excellent plant to attract more birds into a garden. Not only do they attract insects for the birds to feed on in summer, but the autumn berries are a good source of food too. If you have an ugly fence or wall that you want to screen, planting a Pyracantha (fire thorn) will do the job nicely in addition to making a comfortable hotel for small birds like robins and wrens to build their nests. In the autumn the brightly coloured berries provide a feast for blackbirds. Try growing the red berried Pyracantha ‘Saphyr Rouge’ for a bright splash of autumn colour.
An Apple tree, makes a great source of food for a large variety of birds virtually all year round and all are very easy to grow in the local soil. A Crab Apple, such as the “Red Sentinel” with its brilliant autumn colour and bright red apples makes a great focal point in a small garden and makes a fantastic feast for birds just when food is scarce.
Gardens and Conservation
Attracting wild birds into your garden is not only very rewarding but also helps wildlife conservation and helps reverse the declining trend in the populations of once common species. Our gardens are becoming a vital component in the wider conservation effort.