The garden bursts into life and gardens blessed with nests have already been tried, tested and approved by nature’s very own health and safety experts. They seek rich, native hedges (free of nets), dense shrubbery and impenetrable trees to hang out in, or to build their nests in, as well as clean, safe nest boxes, a generous source of nutrient rich food and the all-important life giving, water.
Once nesting is underway and the precious eggs are laid the garden birds need our support. While mother hen sits atop her perfectly formed eggs, her partner gathers food and keeps watch for predators, arriving laden with garden grubs and bugs or tasty morsels of seeds and suet to stoke the fire in her belly and keep the eggs warm. It’s a critical time in bird world. The eggs not only need to be kept warm and at the right humidity, but they must be carefully turned and cossetted.
The star players are the foraging adults and they need all the help you can offer. By return they offer their entertaining antics, daily pest sweeps of the garden and the chance of hands free, low maintenance wild pets for the season.
When it comes to nesting, these delicate creatures have their own idiosyncratic behaviour. Some, like the robin will nest in flowerpots, teapots and other curiosities. Cavity nesting birds, such as the tits and also the owls use a nest boxes to raise their young and also for roosting in the winter.
Blackbirds tend to nest in dense hedges, within climbers or in trees. They often use mud to hold the twigs together and line their nests with moss and feathers. Chaffinches nest in the upper branches of trees, weaving spider webs to bond the nest to the trees and starlings and sparrows will nest in house roofs given half a chance.
There’s a lot you can do to support your garden birds, here’s a few pointers to get you started.
- Feed the nesting birds to supplement their diet. Choose a high quality, nutrient rich mix to ensure the chicks get everything they need as they hatch and grow. Richard Jackson’s Premium Bird Food is ideal, it doesn’t skimp on the high energy, expensive ingredients that the birds need at this time and it isn’t packed with fillers either. High Energy Suet Balls are a great source of essential fats and energy too.
- Supply a fresh source of water and keep it clean for bathing and drinking.
- It is against the law to knowingly disturb a bird or a nest, so don’t prune plants, hedges, shrubs and trees until September when the breeding season is over.
- Leave out suitable, natural nesting material, such as moss, wool, feathers and pet hair that the birds can use to line their nests.
- Create a mud patch and keep it wet to allow nesting birds to gather vital ingredients to make their nests.
- Keep dogs on a lead from March to September, when in the countryside, to protect ground nesting birds.
- Protect next sites from cats and other predators if you can. An ultrasonic deterrent that emits high-pitched sound when it detects movement can be a good solution. Choose one tested and approved by the RSPB.
- Prepare the nest box for a second clutch of chicks, or for next year’s brood. Clean nest boxes out after the chicks have fledged. Position them back in place with the entrance facing slightly down and out of the prevailing wind.
- Before installing new nest boxes or after this years’ chicks have fledged, add a Nestbox plate over the entrance hole to prevent predators from enlarging the hole and accessing the chicks.