Nuthatch perched on top of RSPB pagoda bird table

Buying a bird table

Bird tables are readily available from garden centres, pet shops, the RSPB and specialist mail order firms. Here are some things to consider...

How to choose a bird table

Aesthetics aside, when you choose a bird table, consider the following:

  • Size - Too small a table will lead to more fighting than feeding. An area of about 3-4 square feet is ideal.
  • Material - Most bird tables sold in shops are made of wood, but an increasing variety of metal, plastic and polycarbonate tables and feeding trays have become available in recent years. Although these look less natural, they are easier to keep clean and worth considering.
  • The post - The smoother and straighter the post, the harder it is for cats and squirrels to climb - metal ones are ideal. Avoid knobbly rustic ones that provide handy paw holds.
  • Safety - Check there are no sharp edges which will endanger birds' feet and that there are no moving or 'scissoring' joints in which a bird may be trapped.
  • Design - A basic platform with edges and drainage channels with or without a roof is by far the best. Avoid bird tables with a nest box in the roof - encouraging birds to feed in another's nesting territory is not wise. 'Rustic' thatched bird tables will quickly go bald in spring as the birds take the thatch to build their nests. Some bird tables incorporate a bird bath in the table top. These generally result in the food getting wet and the water turning to soup, and are not recommended.
  • The birds you want to attract - If you want to make sure smaller birds get a look-in at your bird table, and exclude larger birds such as wood pigeons and collared doves, you could consider getting an adjustable bird table. The RSPB's 'Adjus-table bird table' allows you to slide the feeding platform up and down for three different roof heights. 

If possible, set up several different feeding stations to reduce the number of birds in one place and regularly move your feeders, to prevent the build up of bird food and droppings potentially contaminating the ground below. Find more information about keeping bird tables hygienic here