Looking after garden birds

Looking after garden birds

Birds are often a mixed blessing in the garden: they'll swipe your berries, but while they're at it they'll also strip pests like aphids from your roses, eat small slugs and hoover up caterpillars too. On the whole, they do far more good than harm: and besides, they're lovely to watch as they flit around your plants, bringing your garden to life with song and colour.

Here are our top tips to make your garden into a haven for your feathery friends and encourage a thriving population of garden birds to visit you, from sparrows to woodpeckers:

  • Install a pond: birds appreciate a water feature more than anything! They'll go down to the pond to take a drink and have a little bath, and have a snack on the insects it attracts, too! Make your own pond from up-cycled materials such as spare tyres or make a water feature or bird bath using old plant pots, saucers and pebbles.
  • Put up bird feeders: Make your own bird feeders by recycling plastic bottles or milk cartons! Wash our the bottle or carton and remove the label. Make two holes on opposite sides of the bottle/carton so you can slide a stick all the way through, creating a perch for the birds to stand on. You can do a couple of these at different levels if using a large bottle. Next, make plenty of feeding holes so the birds can get the food out of the bottle. Make sure the holes aren't too big so that the seeds don't fall out completely. Fill the bottle with sunflower seeds, mixed seeds or other bird feed and screw the cap on. Poke a hole through the neck of the bottle and thread some string to hang your feeder from a tree branch or hook outside. 


  • Provide the right food: Good year-round feeds include black sunflower seeds, nyger, peanuts and mealworms. You can also provide everything from peanuts, raisins, chopped apples and grated cheese on a small bird table (which you could fashion yourself out of large slabs or stones and get creative and up-cycle an old furniture piece!) Don't forget to fit a squirrel guard to keep the long-tailed thieves away!

  • Make a nest box: The birds are singing, so that means it is nesting time. Garden birds such as the Robins and Blackbirds will be looking for safe places to call home and look after their offspring. Make sure you have some nesting boxes up ready and plenty of natural materials in the garden for the birds to collect for nesting materials. When you welcome them in, they will come and make spring even more special for you. You can make your own nest box by recycling old wood which you can get your children to paint and decorate! 

  • Grow berrying shrubs: this is the most natural food for birds and one that will draw them in in their hundreds. Red-berrying shrubs like cotoneaster, pyracantha and spindle berry are most popular, followed by the orange berries of berberis and rowans: they seem to like white berries least.

  • Leave seedheads on: don't be too quick to tidy up once annuals and perennials have died back in autumn, as birds really appreciate the contents of their dried seedheads. Sunflowers, globe thistles, teasels, mullein and evening primrose are all much appreciated.