attracting birds to your urban garden.
Having spent most of my life in South Africa, I became very used to having the most amazing birdlife in my garden – especially in the garden by my bedroom and office window. Everything from African Hoopoes to Red Bishops, Weavers, Bronze Mannikins, to House Sparrows.
Coming home to the UK, more than anything, I missed the bird life. Fortunately, having a well established hedge dividing the property, just to the left of my lounge window, the local bird population had already identified it as a safe haven for nesting and fledging their young.
I know I still have a lot more to learn, but meanwhile let me share with you what seems to be working for me at present!
So to aid them on their mission, I set a seed feeder on a simple pole and very quickly they were demolishing a full feeder in just a couple of days. Forgetting to keep it full brought a robin knocking on my window! I took the hint, filled the feeder and went and bought a simple bird feeding station and a variety of feeders (readily available from your local garden centres, most DIY stores and the internet. Your should be able to get a good set up for about £20 if you are starting from scratch
You can also get suction feeding stations that attach to your window and cheekier birds – especially robins – will be comfortable feeding from these, or try using a hanging basket bracket.
There is a pecking order in the bird world and the bigger birds will always make the most of easy food and chase the little ones away. So siting your feeding station is key. I have a tiny garden so have placed it near the house, easily visible from my lounge and kitchen, next to a twiggy little willow in a tub, by the hedge. It’s also positioned so that the birds are happy to feed even when I’m either working or enjoying a cup of coffee in my garden. The fact that the feeders are very close to the hedge and tree stop the bigger birds, like jackdaws & starlings, from being able to get at the feed, too – they’re more than big enough to fend for themselves!
Feeders that are short and dumpy generally seem to be more inviting to little birds and less so to the bigger, greedier birds! They look prettier too and also allow several small birds to feed at once. Remember too, that what falls on the ground is usually eaten by ground-feeders, or birds that do both, including dunnocks, blackbirds and wood pigeons.
Plants that bear fruit or berries are also good to plant, but that is for another day.
Feeders come in all shapes and sizes – bigger ones need filling just as often as the smaller ones cos the birds will quite simply feed until it’s gone! Budget and aesthetics will play a large part in determining your final choice.
- Ones with top flap covers are easier to fill and clean, and keep the feed a little drier.
- Short, rectangular ones have also become freely available lately and make sense to be able to hang at different levels.
- Feeding tables and ground bowls also work and give shelter to your birds as well.
Choosing bird feed
Birds can be fussy eaters, so you will find a greater variety of birds visiting if you offer a variety of food. Always buy food especially sold for birds as others might contain harmful toxins.
- Mixed wild bird seed – most birds, including finches, tits, robins, blackbirds, sparrow and dunnocks.
- Meal Worms/suet pellets – robins, bluetits & other insect eating birds such as pied wagtails.
- Peanuts – as above, but also wrens if crushed or grated.
- Sunflower seeds – a general favourite.
- Nyjer Seeds – siskins and goldfinches.
Don’t forget a supply of fresh water to bathe and drink from.
Whilst being bird friendly, also take into account accessibility of your feeding station to predators, squirrels etc. Although, to be honest, I’d be delighted to see a squirrel in my urban garden!
Help us learn together – how do you feed your birds?