Would you like to help garden birds? They reward us with beautiful birdsong and so much joy, yet many are endangered. It’s usually best to just leave them alone, and grow hedgerows and forests, for natural homes. Feeding them too much makes them rely on us too much, and they could die if you did too. Obviously don’t encourage birds to your garden if you live with cats (keep them inside at dawn and dusk, when birds are feeding).
- Gradually reduce artificial feeding in summer (plenty of food around), otherwise birds rely on you. Most can find food elsewhere, over-feeding can lure birds into nesting too early, so chicks hatch before there is enough wild food. Organic gardens encourage caterpillars. Know pet-toxic plants to avoid. Never leave out dry crusty bread or crackers for birds (can choke) nor fatty foods like grease or leftover buttered sandwiches (these can negatively affect waterproofing and insulation of feathers). If you feed nuts, use proper feeders and don’t feed nuts to baby birds, as they could choke. Peanuts should always be bought from a reputable supplier, so they are guaranteed free from aflatoxin, and stored in a cool dry place, to avoid mould. And removed if not eaten within a couple of days.
- See a beginner’s guide to birds’ nests to know of things to not ‘donate’ in the garden, and how to choose and site a bird house.
- Garden organically (including your lawn). This helps birds find natural food, and keeps nature in balance (they will eat up insects and grubs). An organic garden is safer for all the family (lawns with chemicals have higher rates of bladder cancer in dogs, even from neighbouring gardens).
- Never buy those mesh bags with nuts and seeds, as they tear tiny hands and feet. If you feed birds, use quality feeders (not wooden tables, as cats can claw up the wood).
- Avoid excessive lighting both to stop birds flying into windows, but also it confuses birds who then wake up too early, which affects breeding. Also use humane slug & snail deterrents, over chemicals that can harm.
A Garden Bird’s Year
A Garden Bird Year is a front-row seat to the unfolding drama in the garden or local park. As dawn breaks across the garden, you see that the robin and blackbird are always first to arrive. These ground hunters have large eyes, so don’t mind the dim light of early morning.
Ornithologist Mike Toms has spent a year observing the birds, from the crowded yet quiet January garden with migratory fieldfares and bramblings, to the riotous gardens of spring filled with songbirds competing for mates, as the garden ecosystem changes through the year. Greet the arrival of swifts in May and the new crop of fledgling goldfinches and blackbirds in June, and detail his preferences for plants to attract different species. He also notes that urban birds sleep later because cities are a few degrees warm and sing earlier or later to compete with local traffic, and the balance of migratory birds is being affected by the world’s changing climate. But there is much we can do to help.
Planting for Garden Birds is packed with interesting facts, environmental and habitat information, plus planting ideas to encourage more birds. This practical illustrated guide includes tips on sustainable gardening. While some birds are residents from day to day, others are fleeting visitors. But they are all potential guests in our gardens, if we make the environment suitably welcoming. See how to make your garden safe for pets, to know toxic plants to avoid.