There are many simple steps you can take to encourage birds into your garden during the different times of year. A well planned garden is as valuable for birds as parts of the countryside. A testimony to the value of gardens as wildlife habitats is that so many birds are now classed as 'Garden Birds'.
Many birds seek sanctuary in the form of food and shelter in gardens, finding respite from the winter weather. Birds will look for a solid perch and protection from the elements. Their shelter comes from natural sources such as hedges, shrubs and trees, as well as fences and walls. Place your feeders, nest boxes and bird baths in sheltered positions. Flocks of birds will descend from a particular tree or fence and then drop onto the feeders or the lawn to feed. They will get used to the layout of your garden and rely on certain bushes for escaping predators. Bearing this is mind, place feeders close to cover, maybe 2-3 metres away. Also think about placing feeders where you can get a good view, to enjoy the birds without disturbing them.
Nesting boxes can be placed on walls and fences, ready for species such as Swifts and House Martins, which begin to appear in gardens in April and May. The two main types of nesting boxes are either open fronted or closed fronted. Open fronted are preferred by Robins, Wrens and Spotted Flycatchers. Closed fronted used by Blue and Great Tits, as these boxes mimic the holes in trees that they may use as natural nest sites.
Natural cover is a must for attracting birds to nest in your garden. Ivy provides cover and its flowers attract insects in the Summer and Autumn and the berries are a great source of food during the Winter. Blackbirds, Robins and other species like to nest in Ivy. Most gardens should have the space for at least one well pruned tree. Trees are an ideal perching spot for birds and a good source of natural food. They provide seeds, nuts and berries. The Hazel Tree has delicate catkins and tasty nuts, the Rowan plump berries for species such as Thrushes and Waxwings to enjoy.
The Hazel Tree
Rowan Tree berries
Shrubs are also a wonderful source of natural food. Hawthorn and Guelden Rose are among many that provide good crops of berries for garden birds such as Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings. Honeysuckle with its sweet smelling flowers attract insects and provide good roosting habitats in Winter and nesting sites in Summer, especially liked by Sparrows. By planting nectar rich flower borders you will encourage plenty of insects. Goldfinches will extract the seeds of Teasels as they balance on their spiky flower heads and the Thistle is also a favourite of this sought after breed. Other excellent plants are Red Campion, Cornflower, Foxglove and Cowslip. By doing a little research into the different species of plants you can ensure a continuous supply of nectar in your garden from early Spring to Autumn.
Finally remember to leave a variety of seeds and mixes out for the birds throughout the year. Black Sunflower are an excellent year round food, this variety has a high oil content and is very nutritious. The Sunflower Hearts are another popular food, easy to eat and rich in oil and protein. Experiment and see what different kinds of food your Garden Birds prefer. By putting out a variety of good quality, nutritious foods this will increase your chances of attracting more species of Wild Birds to your garden.