Boy feeding birds

Tips on attracting birds to your garden

Giving birds a helping hand by providing supplementary food is a great way to help nature and you don’t need a huge space. Whether you want to put up a window feeder or open a bird café, here are our top tips on feeding the birds.

Getting started

The quickest and easiest way to attract birds into your garden is by putting out food – particularly when the weather is colder and natural food sources may be scarcer.

You don’t even need a garden – a feeding tray on a window sill can be very effective. However, here are a few tips to get you started.

Bird table

What do I feed the birds?

Different birds have different feeding habits and food preferences. Blackbirds, for example, mostly feed on the ground and will eat many things from fatty nibbles to mealworms. Tits, such as blue tits and great tits, prefer to use a feeder, eating seeds as well as suet and peanuts. Finches, including chaffinches and greenfinches, will use both a feeder and a bird table, and are particularly fond of sunflower hearts.

There are lots of different bird foods available, including various mixes for bird feeders and bird tables, as well as for ground feeding. However, it’s important to look for good quality bird food – those that don’t include “fillers” such as dried peas and beans that birds rarely eat. We’ve got some great mixes in our shop.

As well as bird food you can put out leftovers such as small amounts of bread, fruit cake, dried fruit, unsalted nuts, or fruit such as apples and pears. Take care to avoid anything mouldy or salty though, and if you have a dog don’t put out dried fruit – vine fruits such as raisins can be toxic to them.

Bird feeder

Just watch the way the birds interact and play and feed – it uplifts your heart, it nourishes the soul.

David Domoney, Chartered Horticulturist and TV Gardener

Where shall I put the feeders and bird table?

You can put your bird feeder in a whole host of places – even those attached directly to a window can work well. One thing to bear in mind is that it can take a little bit of time for the birds to get accustomed to a new feeder, so don’t be disappointed if there’s little activity at first.

The top three considerations for siting a feeder are that it should be somewhere:

  • Quiet – where birds won't be disturbed.
  • Safe – not too close to bushes where cats could hide in wait, but close enough to cover that birds can easily dart to and fro.
  • Sheltered from harsh winds.

Oh, and make sure you can see it when you’re indoors, to get the most pleasure from it!

Boy hanging bird feeder

Don't forget the water

As well as food, it’s a good idea to put out water for the birds. Anything from a large plant pot tray to a bird bath will be appreciated. The key thing is to keep it clean and put out fresh water every day.

Keep an eye on the water when the weather gets really cold – if it freezes over, gently pour warm water onto the ice letting it thaw so the birds can have access to water once more.

Bird drinking from a bird bath

It’s quite amazing what just a few feeders can do. Once the birds know they’re there, they’ll come and visit.

Nicky Fijalkowska

Be sure to keep it clean

It’s very important to keep bird feeders clean to prevent a build-up of bacteria or fungal spores. These can be very harmful, spreading infections among garden birds.

Wearing gloves and using warm soapy water, scrub the feeder inside and out using a strong, long bristled brush. Do this in a bucket, not in the kitchen sink. It’s also a good idea to use a mild, non-toxic disinfectant. Make sure the feeder has dried thoroughly before refilling it with food.

Bird feeders

Reap the rewards!

By putting out supplementary food, you should in time begin to see more birds on a regular basis. For many people it’s immensely rewarding – both to know you are doing something to help nature and the sheer joy of getting to know our feathered friends.

Robin on branch

Birds to look out for

Check out some of the most commonly sighted birds, with tips on telling them apart!