This summer, encourage birds to your back yard with a few simple additions
As well as being a pretty sight and providing a less angry-sounding wake-up call than your phone, birds in your garden regulate the number of insects and other invertebrates. Some birds once common in back yards are in decline, but gardeners can make a big difference. You don’t need a huge plot; even on a balcony there’s space to help birds. If you want to welcome more avian visitors, here are a few things you can do:
- Provide water
A birdbath lets birds drink and wash themselves, and helps them cool down in summer. If you don’t have a birdbath, anything that can hold water and be cleaned will do, like a plastic tray partly buried in the soil. Regular cleaning will prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria.
- Feed the birds
Hanging bird feeders and bird tables will encourage visitors to your garden. In winter, foods high in fat like peanuts (unsalted) and fat balls will help them to get through the cold weather.
In summer, more protein is needed. The RSPB recommends “black sunflower seeds, pinhead oatmeal, soaked sultanas, raisins and currants, mild grated cheese, mealworms, waxworms, mixes for insectivorous birds, good seed mixtures without loose peanuts” and says that “soft apples and pears cut in half, bananas and grapes are also good”. Birds like robins and blue tits like live food such as mealworms.
Food should be cleared and replaced before it can rot; this is especially important in hot weather.
Avoid peanuts and chunks of bread when birds are likely to have chicks, as these foods may harm them, and never put out salty food. If possible, feeding year-round will ensure that your garden birds always have enough to eat if other sources become scarce.
- Plant trees and bushes
This one’s a bit more of a long-term investment, but the benefits are two-fold. By planting bushes and trees which produce berries or fruit, you’ll be adding another food source to your garden. These plants will also provide perching, sheltering and nesting sites.
- Help out with nest-building
Leaving out nesting material will help birds collect enough to build a nest for their chicks. If you have furry pets, then shed or clipped hair makes for soft lining (provided the hair hasn’t been chemically treated). Other suitable materials include grass clippings, cotton wool, dead leaves, short lengths of wool, moss, straw and feathers. Avoid synthetic materials like nylon string, and lint from the tumble dryer.
- Nest boxes
Nest boxes will provide places for birds to raise their young, or just to shelter. Different sizes of entrance will allow a variety of species to make use of them:
- 25mm – marsh tits, coal tits, blue tits
- 28mm – great tits, pied flycatchers, tree sparrows
- 32mm – sparrows, nuthatches
- 45mm – starlings