How To Create A Bird Friendly Garden
Our natural landscapes are continuously changing, and as we constantly endure the loss of more and more natural spaces to urbanisation. The difference you can make to local bird populations, simply by creating a bird-friendly garden, is huge. It’s not only beneficial to the birds – the enjoyment you will get from identifying the various new species that begin to visit your garden, is a reward in itself.
The RSPB has recognised the following decline in bird species as documented by The Common Bird Census between 1970 and 1999:
• Tree sparrow -95%
• Willow tit -78%
• Spotted flycatcher -77%
• Woodcock -74%
• Starling -71%
• Turtle dove -71%
• Song thrush -56%
• Bullfinch -53%
• Skylark -52%
• Cuckoo -33%
So How Do I Attract Birds To My Garden?
Follow our 5 Steps!
A wildlife friendly hedge can provide all of the provisions above. Dense foliage is the perfect shelter for birds to nest in, branches decorated with an abundance of berries provide a welcome source of food, and plants with spiny foliage can protect birds from predators and keep their nests safe.
When choosing hedging to plant as a source of food, consider native hedging such as Hawthorn or Rowan, to recreate the local ecosystem within your area as much as possible. Often, hedgerows in the countryside are flail-cut before birds can make the most of their berries, making your garden hedges even more valuable. Hedging plants, such as Yew and Privet, make great nesting sites for birds as the dense foliage creates a safe, warm environment in which they can shelter from the cold in the winter and breed during spring and summer.
Choosing a wildlife friendly hedge with spiky foliage, such as Blackthorn or Holly, provides a bushy habitat that keeps food sources and nests safe from predators, such as cats or other larger birds. Planting these hedges around the base of a bird table or hanging feeder can also protect unsuspecting birds as they eat.
Planting a mixed hedge is one way of achieving all of these features within a small area, and a large diversity of plants will increase the number of different species that visit your garden. Also consider planting species with varying growth rates, as large shrubs many take a while to establish and provide suitable habitats, whilst fast growing hedges can provide immediate shelter.
Although a food supply is essential year-round, there are certain times of the year when providing a reliable source of food can be vital to the survival of some birds. Winter appears to be the obvious season when providing food becomes more important, as natural food sources can become scarce; however, many people underestimate the importance of supplying food during May and June, when the number of beaks to feed in the nest increases. Being able to locate an easy source of food can influence the rate of survival among new chicks.
Remember to include variety among the foods you supply to cater to the dietary needs of different species. Also spread your feeders and bird tables throughout the garden, creating different levels to accommodate birds that may prefer to feed from the ground. Once you have started to leave food out, make sure you keep your supply steady and regular – birds become reliant on food sources and stopping your supply suddenly can be detrimental.
Birds not only enjoy the tasty treats you leave out for them, but insects are a primary food source for many species. Therefore, by reducing or completely eliminating the use of insecticides and pesticides in your garden, you can encourage a healthy ecosystem and, the more insects you leave for the birds to find, the larger their intake of essential proteins and fats that keep them healthy and strong.
When it comes to providing a source of water for your garden birds, the size of the pond or bath does not need to be anything extravagant. As long as you remember to keep it topped up, even a small bird bath will supply them with the water they need to drink and wash in and give you an animated wildlife show to watch all year round.
An accessible source of water is particularly important for birds during warm weather in summer when the risk of dehydration increases. In winter, natural sources of water may become frozen so birds can come to depend on baths and water features – to prevent your water source from completely freezing over, place a lightweight ball in the centre of the bath/pond.
Upon installing a bird bath or water feature in your garden, you need to commit to keeping it clean. Dirty bird baths can cause diseases and illness in your garden birds and a clean bath is more likely to attract attention. Cleaning twice a year, once in summer and again in winter, should be all the maintenance it requires.
Besides the natural shelters that can be found in your hedges and shrubs, bird boxes can provide a home for nesting birds with growing families in spring and summer, and a cosy way for birds to escape the cold weather in winter.
When establishing a bird box (or two) consider the types of birds that you already know visit your garden, as boxes vary in size. Therefore, having both a small and a large bird box will provide shelter for different species.
If you have a domestic cat, or you know of neighbouring cats, it’s important to keep all sources of food and water away from surfaces that a cat may be able to jump from to reach your birds. It’s also a good idea to avoid leaving food on the ground, as feeding birds are an easy target for cats.
By adding just one of these features to your garden you can help your local birds dramatically, so join the campaign to save our native birds and get gardening today!
Modern developments have created a lot of damage to animal habitats, including those of birds. So, we owe it to them to make our gardens bird-friendly and help our little feathered friends survive and breed successfully.
Find out how you can help to breed birds here.
If you have any questions about this topic, or anything else relating to your garden, please comment below or tweet us @best4hedging and we’ll be happy to help.