Lifestyle Wildlife

Everything you need to attract birds to your garden this winter

I don’t need to tell you that the world’s wildlife is really suffering, especially our precious bird life! The good news is that it is possible to turn your garden or a green space into a mini reserve if you have access to one.

I’ve concentrated on birds for this post, as numbers are rapidly declining and it’s easier to provide for them in a small space. If you want to try birdwatching then here are the essential items you need to get started.

I will talk about our other animals in another post, as our reptiles, amphibians, bats, hedgehogs, butterflies, insects and other creatures are equally important for our ecosystem.

I’ve put in some recommended links but you can make your own feeders and boxes using Pinterest. I have also endeavoured to avoid plastic as it’s environmentally harmful and does not last. I’ve had plastic feeders in the past and squirrels chewed them into tiny pieces.

This brings me onto the first thing you can do, which is hang a bird feeder up.

1. Sturdy bird feeder

My first recommendation is to get a metal bird feeder because as well as deterring squirrels, they’re easy to clean and they last. It’s good to get a selection so that you can provide a mixture of peanuts, sunflower seeds, mealworms and suet.

High energy foods are especially important at winter time when birds battle with freezing temperatures. If you have particular problems with squirrels you can get feeders with a baffle around them, I’m not a fan of these as you can’t see the birds very well or take pictures of them.

2. Bird feeding stand

If you don’t have any tall trees or bushes to hang your feeders on then it’s worth buying a bird feeder stand. The metal ones are much better than the plastic ones but can be expensive. I have had this one in my garden for a few years and it’s lasted well without being too pricey.

3. Multi-hole small bird box

It’s can be hard to choose a nest box as different birds like different things. I would advise either buying or making a basic box or getting a multi-species one like this. This gives you a greater chance of it being used by your small garden birds. I will discuss some options for other species later on.

4. Bird bath

I have a pond that the birds in my garden use as a bath and I also put out a dish for them. There are no bird baths that I particularly recommend as the cheapest ones are made from plastic but if you want to pay more, there are several stone and ceramic numbers on the market.

Failing that, find a shallow dish and keep it topped up with rainwater as the birds don’t care where their water comes from! I put a ball in my pond to stop it freezing over entirely when its really cold so animals can still drink from it.

5. Covered ground feeder

Many garden birds will feed from the ground but this can be a problem as they can get attacked by predators and food can attract rodents. If you want to attract ground feeding birds I suggest putting a small amount of food out and covering it with a cage with small mesh. I used a large mesh cage and the squirrels could still get in so this one is better. Cages are no good for photographers though, in which case putting a few seeds on a log and waiting might reward you with a nice shot.

6. Bird boxes for swallows, swifts and house martins

These migrating birds are another group that are in trouble, but the good news is that if you own any sort of building or can get permission to put up boxes then you can really make a difference. They really suffered in the heatwave in 2018 because there was no mud to use in their nest building.

Swallows like boxes which are round like this one and positioned under the eaves of a building.

House martins prefer circular nests but with a hole in the front to get in.

If you want to set up a decent nesting site for swifts, then visit the Swift Conservation website, where you can learn about swifts, how to make or buy nestboxes and where to fit them. You can even download swift sounds to encourage them into your nestboxes once they’re up. Bats can also use some of their boxes which is a win as they are suffering due to habitat loss as well.

7. Large bird box

If you have the space, then erecting a bird box for larger birds like the little owl can be worthwhile. You can get crows nesting in these so be prepared that you won’t necessarily get the bird that you want, but larger birds are fascinating to watch. Although you may not feel that way if they start to prey on eggs of other garden birds. If you have the budget and space, you can get boxes for tawny and barn owls but they can be expensive.

8. Bird CCTV

If you are really serious about birds and want to splash out then why not set up your own nest box cam? The great thing about these cameras is that if you’re really lucky you might see something new to science. Failing that, you’ll learn a lot about bird behaviour…if you get any residents. It’s worth being careful with your placement in order to give yourself the best chance of getting a bird to move in. This one is good as it attracts different species.

Anything that you can do for birds is a bonus so even if you only make one change to your garden or green area then that will make a difference. The more we look after them, the more we can enjoy hearing and watching them until we grow old.

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