With temperatures dropping as we head into autumn and winter, it’s an important time of year to look after wild birds. Here’s how to attract birds to your garden by stocking up your feeders.
It’s still early days for Sonny at 18 months old, but he already seems well on his way to being a nature lover. Our little boy’s got excited about every animal he’s ever laid eyes on – from dogs and donkeys to lions and butterflies – and for the past six months he’s taken a big interest in the birds that visit our garden.
So to keep the little monster happy, and because the approaching cold weather makes it more important to look after your garden birds at this time of year, we’ve decided to invest more time and effort into feeding them this autumn and winter. And since Sonny’s now at an age where he wants to be involved in everything we do, we decided to make him part of the process.
Here are our top tips on how to attract birds to your garden:
Pick the right food for the time of year
In autumn and winter it’s more important than ever to feed garden birds as natural food sources disappear. It can feel a bit like a hassle but fresh food and water should be put out daily, and in very severe weather like snow and frost you should do it twice a day. Go for good-quality, high-energy and high-fat foods full of stuff like meal worms, suet pellets and peanuts. Fat balls are great too, but make sure to remove and recycle the harmful green nets they often come in.
Provide plenty of variety
Like a lot of people, I’ve been guilty of cheaping out on bird food in the past. The blue tits, robins, starlings, blackbirds and collared doves that regularly visit our feeders have never complained but it’s not the healthiest option for them, so this year we’ve upped the quality and variety. We recently got a big delivery from Kennedy Wild Bird food with six different types of food – Premium Sunflower Seeds, Robin Deluxe Mix, Split Peanuts, Suet Special Blend, Won’t Grow Mix and Economy Mixed Seed. It’s meant I’ve had to buy a load more feeders (!) but the result is a high quality bird banquet.
Clean your feeders
This is something else I’ve always been rubbish at. Don’t leave old bird food to rot in the feeders, and make sure you clean dishes, seed holders and feeders as often as possible to avoid the spread of germs or disease among your feathery visitors. If you don’t, you could be doing more harm than good.
Don’t forget water
As well as a good supply of food, make sure your birds have regular access to fresh water for drinking and bathing. Bird baths should be cleaned regularly to keep them hygienic because they’re often left with a layer of dirty water in the bottom. Here’s a good tip: if you leave a small floating ball in your bird bath during the winter it should stop the water from freezing.
Recycle your fruit
You don’t always have to spend out on expensive bird food – just have a look in your fruit bowl. Apples, pears and other soft fruits are all great options, as are naturally dried fruits like raisins and sultanas. Bacon rind, grated cheese and the crumbs from the bottom of cereal packets also go down well with garden birds – just make sure they’re all chopped up finely.
Make your own recipes!
This is the fun bit! Rather than buying bird cakes or fat balls, why not make your own? All you need is some good quality bird food mixture (such as meal worms, sunflower seeds and peanut granules) then melt a pack of lard in a pan, wait for it to cool and mix the whole lot together. It’s a great activity to do with your kids, and once you’ve left it to set for a few hours you can put it out for the birds to enjoy. I use a hollowed out coconut shell hung from our feeder and the starlings go mad for it!
Record what you see
Now you’ve figured out how to attract birds to your garden, why not take some time to sit down and record what you see by taking part in the world’s biggest wildlife survey? The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is a lovely event to do with your kids and runs from January 27-29 in 2018. All the results are used to protect and conserve our garden birds, so it’s a great cause to get involved with!