Writer Nicola Chester & family, setting up bird table, Berkshire, England

Where to put a bird table

You don't have to have a garden to feed birds - a feeding tray can attract birds to a window sill on a block of flats.

Choosing where to place your bird table

Consider the following as you decide where to site your bird table:

  • Quiet - if possible, your bird table should be placed where the birds will not be disturbed regularly by human traffic - that is, the back garden rather than the front, and by a 'quiet' window if you have the choice. Don't, however, place it so far from the house that you can't see it - the fun of feeding birds is being able to watch them!
  • In the open and safe - with a good all round view so that the birds can see they are safe from predators while they feed. The table should be safely away from cat ambush sites. These include fences and trees from which cats can leap and dense bushes in which they can hide.
  • Sheltered - in a position where it gets neither too much sun nor too much cold wind.
  • With a lookout point - a small bush about two metres from the table gives the birds somewhere safe to perch while they look to see if it is safe to feed, to 'queue up' for a place on the table, and to dash to if disturbed. Bramble clippings placed around the bush will prevent cats lurking.
  • Mounted - a raised bird table has the advantage of being visible from the comfort of a chair. It can be placed on top of a post, hung from a branch or a bracket or even from the washing line. Some birds, however, such as blackbirds, other thrushes and chaffinches, prefer to feed on the ground, so consider providing more than one type of feeding station.
Blue tit feeding on favourites blend at RSPB pagoda bird table

How to position the bird table

Mounting

A metal post is best to mount your bird table on to make it impossible for cats and difficult for squirrels to climb. It is much easier, however, to attach the table to a wooden post and slide a length of plastic drainpipe or similar over it to make it unscalable.

Drive the post into the ground (allow for about a foot of post in the ground) or make it free-standing with a cross-shaped base. The table needs to be 4-6 feet (1.2-1.75 m) off the ground. The best height will depend on the level you will be viewing from, the agility of the neighbourhood cats and the height of the person in charge of stocking and cleaning the table.

Whichever way the post is fixed the table must be firm. If on a cross-shaped base, make the feet long enough to stop the table from blowing over. If wind is a problem you could peg the feet down or put rocks on them. Use small metal angle brackets at the top of the post to fix the table, or small blocks of wood (or plastic blocks from DIY stores) which can be screwed to the post from the side and the table from below.

Hanging

To hang a table, use screw-in eyes or hooks to each corner and attach lengths of wire or a light metal chain (avoid lines which can be chewed through by squirrels). To stop the table from spinning round, the chain needs to be hung from more than one point, so make loops of the chains at either end of the table and hang it from a horizontal branch (or your washing line). To protect a tree from being cut by the chain, thread the chain through a section of garden hose.

Window ledges

Bird tables can be fixed to window ledges with angle brackets, chains or angled supports depending on the site.

A ground feeding tray

For those birds that prefer to feed on the ground, a low-level bird table can be provided. This should be mounted no more than 10 cm off the ground (to allow the grass to 'breathe') and moved fractionally each time you put out food. This prevents both the build up of droppings in one part of the garden and damage to your lawn. Remember, beware of cats under shrub cover.

Great tit Parus major, feeding on suet coated sunflower hearts, from ground feeding table