Five ways to attract more garden birds

Spotting a new bird species in the garden can be exciting. But how do you keep them coming?

Blue tit perched on branch with spring blossom

Once you get hooked on watching the birds in your garden you’ll start to recognise not just the different characters that visit, but also the different types of birds. 

It’s exciting seeing new species, but what’s the secret to attracting more birds to the garden?

Our gardens are attractive to birds for so many reasons. So, by making them even more attractive by catering for special needs, you will naturally attract a wider range of species. Here are five different ways to attract more species of birds to your garden.

Grow natural food

It’s not just berries and bugs that provide essential natural food for the birds. Many of our garden bird species are seed eaters and that means they need plants that produce masses of seed to survive. The great thing about this is that there are many lovely plants we can grow in our gardens that set seed and provide a source of food for the birds. And by growing a variety of different plants and plenty of new ones we can attract many more birds to our gardens. Grow things like wild carrot (also fab as a cut flower), corn poppies, teasels, tufted vetch and knapweeds. The flowers will provide nectar and pollen for the pollinators, and the resulting seeds will help to feed the birds.

Wild carrott
Wild carrot makes a great cut flower and the seeds are an important food source for birds. Image: Adobe Stock

Grow baby food

And it’s not just the seeds that feed the birds. By growing some native plants, you attract the pollinators that they evolved side by side with, some of which have a larval stage that feed on the foliage. These ‘baby bugs’ and indeed the adults too, are essential food for our insect eating birds especially at nesting time. So rather than curse the arrival of caterpillars in the garden, embrace them. These are food for the chicks. One nest of ten blue tit chicks needs a thousand caterpillars a day!! If you spray your plants for caterpillars you will remove a layer of the food chain an d potentially starve your baby birds.

Blue Tit feeding caterpillar to its young
One nest of ten Blue Tit chicks needs 1,000 caterpillars a day. Image: Adobe Stock

It’s important to remember that caterpillars rarely kill a plant, they sort of do the Chelsea Chop and the plants grow back stronger. And the caterpillars won’t affect most of your plants anyway, they have very specific dietary needs, so if they are munching your verbascum they won’t eat your petunias. Caterpillars are not contagious.

Assisted living 

Most gardens have a bird box somewhere, but did you know that different birds nest in different places. Some nest high up the trees, while others prefer dense hedges or even tree cavities to build their nest. If you want a variety of birds to nest on your plot you need to provide suitable nesting boxes and the right nesting habitat. It’s worth researching the exact species you want to attract to understand their nesting needs. House sparrows like to nest in communities and choose nest sites where they can do so. Look out for special sparrow terraces designed to attract these social birds. Blackbirds tend to nest in shrubs, they make their nests from twigs and grass and moss, ‘cemented’ together with mud. Some birds, like robins prefer an open-faced nesting box, whereas blue tits tend to choose a box with a small access hole.

Female blackbird in nest with her young
Blackbirds tend to make their nests in shrubs from twigs, grass and moss. Image: Adobe Stock

Water of Life

All creatures need water to survive. Birds don’t just drink water; they need water to make their eggs and water to bathe in too. Fresh water is an essential ingredient within a bird friendly garden. A birdbath can be the perfect focal point even in a small garden, where birds gather to wash, drink and bathe. Keep the water source clean, fresh and free from debris. Add a few flat stones as drinking islands for small birds and insects. 

goldfinch stood on edge of bird bath
Birds need fresh clean water for drinking and bathing. Image: Adobe Stock

Feed, feed, feed

When it comes to feeding the birds think about their varied diets. If you want to attract a wider range of birds to your garden you have to provide the right food. When it comes to bird food you get what you pay for. If you buy cheap bird food you get cheap ingredients. Look for a bird food that has lots of variety in its ingredients to cater for different bird species. And choose a bird food with top quality ingredients so that it feeds the birds better. When the birds are nesting they expend a lot of energy collecting food for their chicks, make it easier so that they feed themselves well by investing in a quality mix. You can’t go wrong with Richard’s High Energy Bird Food and High Energy Seed & Nut Suet Balls

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