Welcome local birdlife into your garden in five simple steps. Birdlife has been in decline over the last few decades, with some species experiencing a sharp drop during this time. There are various reasons why the bird population has been hit so hard, but ultimately it’s our impact on their habitat that causes the disruption. Creating a bird-friendly garden is a great way to support the local bird population. Why? Because your back garden, no matter how small, has the potential to provide the food, water, and shelter they need to flourish and thrive.
Read on and discover five ways to create a bird-friendly garden.
1. Encourage natural foraging and feeding
The loss of habitat for birds also means the loss of natural foraging and feeding opportunities — a devastating effect that means much of the bird population is competing over limited feeding ground and risks going hungry out in the wild. With this in mind, your garden has the potential to provide essential nutrition that allows birdlife to flourish and thrive in your area. But how do you turn your garden into a pocket-sized habitat capable of sustaining the local bird population? Well, encouraging foraging and feeding in your garden is about creating a variety of organic feeding spots.
One option is to plant berry bushes and fruit trees, which provide seasonal nourishment for local birdlife. Another option is to plant beds of nectar-rich flowers to encourage bugs and keep insectivores well-fed.
2. Supplement foraging with a birdfeeder
Encouraging natural foraging and feeding is vital for creating an attractive environment for birds to call home — but what happens when the seasons change and foods stop growing?
Supplementary food sources distributed by bird feeders allow the local birdlife to continue feeding in your garden all year round. Depending on what you store in these feeders, you can provide essential nourishment for birds to stay healthy and prepare for a harsh winter.
High in protein and fibre, dried mealworms, for instance, are essential fuels that support the local birdlife. Best of all, they fit perfectly into a bird feeder, with RSPB’s mealworms bird feeders being a popular option and a big hit in many back gardens.
3. Create a reliable freshwater source
Fun fact: birds have no sweat glands and lose heat through panting.
Despite their inability to sweat, birds need a reliable freshwater source to drink and bathe. Regular bathing is an essential routine for local birdlife, helping make their feathers easier to prune — an instinctive process that keeps them insulated and waterproof.
Installing a tall birdbath under sufficient shelter is a great way to supply a reliable freshwater source while reducing threats from predators, especially foxes and domestic cats.
Keeping the water clean prevents the spread of disease in the local bird population. When cleaning and replenishing the water source, ensure you avoid using harsh chemicals, opting instead to keep things simple using a scrub brush to remove algae and grime.
4. Provide sufficient and varied shelter
Like food and fresh water, sufficient shelter is one of life’s necessities, essential for creating a bird-friendly garden our feathered friends call home. A secure shelter can be anything but it must provide a safe space to sleep, breed, and keep away from predators.
Bird boxes are often among the most popular and beneficial bird shelters to put in your garden. They are an effective artificial shelter ideal for shielding birds from predators and also a safe spot to build a nest and take cover from harsh winter weather.
You can provide more varied and natural shelter for birds in your garden by making the most of the greenery. Growing climbers and dense shrubbery, for example, prove to be a safe roosting site for small birds. And leaving areas of grass to grow wild can also be a sanctuary for all sorts of wildlife hiding from predators.
5. Be on cat watch
The domestic cat — a beloved household fur ball, but a bird’s archnemesis.
Are you guilty of leaving a tin of tuna for the local cat? If you’re serious about creating a bird-friendly garden, say goodbye to your befriended feline. Cats love to catch birds and are known to drive away our feathered friends, much like a scarecrow in a cornfield.
Avoid putting food on the ground and feed birds in areas where cats cannot easily reach. This can be achieved by placing feeders high off the ground and away from areas a cat could feasibly use as a platform to leap.
You can also protect birds using traditionally uncomfortable and spiny foliage. For instance, holly is often placed around the base of birdbaths and feeding tables to discourage cats and other wildlife from becoming too inquisitive.
It’s important to keep any cat deterrents humane and unharmful. Remember the local cat population likely belongs to your neighbour’s and are much-loved family pets.
Moreover, domestic cats are protected by law and are free to roam the neighbourhood. It’s an offence to trap or harm them in any way (see the RSPCA’s guide for more information).