Bird numbers have declined dramatically over the past few decades and there is now a serious threat facing some of our most-loved garden birds. Species such as the house sparrow, song thrush, starling and bullfinch have decreased dramatically in numbers.
Loss of natural habitats and intensive farming methods are two of the contributing factors to this decline but we can all do our bit to help.
When should we feed the birds?
When shouldn’t we? That’s the real question. Birds need to be fed all year round. Often, people pack away their bird feeders at the end of winter, believing they have helped the birds through the difficult season and adverse weather conditions. This is not the case.
Many birds use gardens and local areas throughout spring and summer particularly as they have difficulty finding all the foods they need elsewhere. Helping birds out with food can help them flourish during the breeding season (see Which Foods Are Best for Which Birds? for further details on what to feed different species).
How should we feed the birds?
There are a variety of ways to feed birds in your garden and the methods you use will help you attract a variety of birds too. Here, you can learn a little more about some of the recommended ways.
This is the simplest way to feed birds. Simply scattering suitable foods on the ground will attract a whole host of species including robins, blackbirds, dunnocks, wrens and thrushes. Beware of two problems – firstly, ground feeding poses a serious risk from predators, particularly cats. Secondly, it has been shown to attract and promote the proliferation of mice and rats.
This adds an extra layer of safety to birds feeding in your garden. Ensure tables are far enough away from cover to prevent predators, such as cats, from leaping up at feeding birds. They can also stop other pets and garden animals from eating the food left out for birds.
Bird feeders are the ideal way to attract birds such as tits, sparrows and finches to your garden – especially if they are filled with seeds, seed mixes and peanuts (peanuts should be chopped up when not placed in feeders).
Feeders should be placed within two metres of cover. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the feeder is located, the more successful and beneficial it will be.
It can take a little while – sometimes several weeks – for birds to have the confidence to start visiting a new feeder so don’t lose faith if birds don’t make use of your appropriately placed feeder straight away.