Attract birds to your garden

Nick Moyle and Rich Hood

Bird feeders

Make sure you attract birds—not rodents—by hanging your titbits in a bird-friendly feeder.

There are numerous feeders on the market that come in all shapes and sizes, just be careful that the one you choose is bird-safe and has no loose parts or wide mesh that could ensnare an unsuspecting birds foot. And don’t forget to go for one that has a squirrel proof lid to prevent thieving paws from stealing the goods.

You can attract certain bird species, depending on what food you offer…

  • Small seeds will attract smaller beaked birds, so stuff these in your feeder and expect visits by finches, house sparrows and the odd greedy collared dove. Black nyjer seeds—or thistle seeds—are a particular favourite of goldfinches, nuthatches and great spotted woodpeckers.
     
  • Sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts (kernels) are the beloved scran of many species. Blue tits, coal tits, great tits, greenfinches—they’ll all flock to your feeder to get their greedy beaks on these high energy treats. Sunflower hearts will also attract bullfinches. Owners of apple trees will be aware that the bullfinch has a particular penchant for budding apple blossom, so keep those feeders topped up to distract them from spoiling next year’s cider supply.
     
  • Crack open a tub of dried mealworms (remembering to prepare your nostrils for their unholy stench) to attract robins, starlings and blackbirds. If you plan to put them out during nesting times, soak them for a few minutes so that the worms are easier to digeste in case they are taken by birds to feed to their young.
     
  • Fat balls are great energy providers giving a ready supply of nourishment over the winter months. You can, of course, acquire shop bought ones, but it’s easy enough to make your own. Grab a handful of lard or suet, combine with a mixture of seeds and mould it into a ball. Polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils should be avoided as the greasy consistency can stick to beaks and smear on feathers. Haul your balls back indoors when spring arrives—lumps of fat can prove to be a choke hazard for baby birds.

Remember to clean out your feeders every month or so to prevent bacteria and contamination. And while you’re at it, provide birds with access to clean water to drink, as pecking on seeds and nuts is thirsty work.

Bird friendly planting

We have no trouble attracting birds to the allotment—pigeons are particularly partial to our brassica bed, and blackbirds queue up for the first to feast on the newly emerging blackcurrants and raspberries. For the garden, there are numerous plants you can shove in the ground to draw them in. Birds love a berry bush—try planting a spindle (euonymus) and they’ll flock to feast upon its wing-shaped berries.

Provide seed loving avians with teasel (dipsacus fullonum) and plant grasses that have an abundance of seed heads, such as the Chinese Silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis).

Finally, good news for scruffy gardeners. Leaving patches of nettles will attract insects and will become a wriggling banqueting suite for insect loving birds, whilst rambling, overgrown ivy presents the ideal nesting spot for robins.