Posted by Admin on 21 October 2010, 6:03 pm


Going for a walk to look at birds can be very rewarding, and you may be able to increase your enjoyment if you attract birds to your garden. Watching them from the comfort of a chair, you can learn more about their habits and appreciate their charms. You will also be helping conservation efforts, as some birds which were once common e.g. house sparrows have recently suffered alarming decreases.

The two main methods of attracting birds are: putting out food and water, and putting up a nestbox.


Buy a fat ball, fat cake or bird feeder containing nuts or seeds and attach it to a tree, washing line, piece of wire or wall.

These products can be bought from greengrocers and garden centres, or by mail order from numerous companies, including:

CJ WildBird Foods.
Kennedy Wild Bird Food.
Jacobi Jayne.
Ernest Charles.

In a survey published in the July 2005 edition of BBC Wildlife, the product deemed to be the ‘best buy’ was the peanut cake by CJ Wildbird Foods, because it lasted a long time, was easy to hang up and attracted the most birds.

As well as buying food, the following kitchen scraps are suitable:

bacon rind (unsalted)
apple cores, cut-up pears
raisins, sultanas, currants
old or bruised bananas
mild grated cheese
soaked bread
cooked rice
cooked potato
uncooked porridge oats or coarse oatmeal
suet or pastry
sunflower seeds

During the spring and summer breeding season birds will also appreciate live food as the newly-born chicks find it easier to digest: if you can tolerate the idea buy a pack of mealworms or waxworms (store them in the fridge) and put them on a tray with raised edges to prevent accidental loss.

There are several types of food which should be avoided:

whole peanuts: they can choke small birds.
salted peanuts: they have a poor nutritional value.
cheap varieties of peanuts: they may carry a disease called aflatoxin which can be poisonous.
salted bacon
dry bread
desiccated coconut


Birds will also appreciate fresh water for bathing and drinking. If you can afford it birds will love a bird bath. However you can improvise your own equipment. For drinking, use a bowl of water. Keep it shallow to prevent birds falling in and drowning. For bathing use an up-turned dustbin lid sunk into the ground, with stones to provide perches for the birds.


Only put out enough food for one day at a time, to prevent the food going off.

Keep the water fresh: algae can build up in stale water and harm birds.

Empty out and clean any feeders regularly to prevent a build-up of salmonella.


During the spring months birds are looking for somewhere to build a nest. This includes both the migrant birds which fly here to breed e.g. blackcap, willow warbler and chiffchaff, and the birds which are here all year round e.g. robin, dunnock, blue tit, great tit and coal tit. To help these birds breed successfully buy a nestbox or make your own. Garden centres often sell nextboxes, as do the companies which sell bird food. A basic box can be bought for around £10-12 (plus postage and packing if applicable).

For those with the desire to make a box it is best to visit the RSPB website where instructions are given:

Important note: please do not disturb the nestbox. It may be tempting to lift the lid to take a look but this can cause stress to the adult birds who are already occupied with the task of collecting food to feed their chicks. Also, never remove eggs from a nestbox, or any nest you find in the wild. The practice of removing eggs is not as common as it was in the past but it does still happen. The bottom line is this: it is an offence to destroy or disturb a nest, so please don’t do it!


What birds are likely to come?

You will almost certainly see blue tits, blackbirds and starlings. There is also a good chance of great tits, coal tits, robins, house sparrows, greenfinch and chaffinch. If you are lucky you may get a great spotted woodpecker.

Different species of birds will favour certain foods over others. Try njyer seed if you want to attract goldfinches, as they cannot get enough of these seeds which are rich in oil.

Why am I only getting starlings and woodpigeons on my feeders?

This does happen! Perhaps small birds come early in the morning but you miss them. Try a different type of seed, or put out fresh kitchen scraps, or worms. Try enclosing the food in wire netting which will only permit birds of the size of tits and finches to reach the food (however, this will exclude popular larger birds such as blackbirds and thrushes).

If all of these options fail you may have to alter your perceptions. Starlings and woodpigeons may not be the most popular of birds but they do have their charms: when seen close up with binoculars starlings have a glossy plumage with streaks of purple and green; woodpigeons are members of the dove family and the association with peace and harmony may be pleasing to some people. At least we do not have the problem of grey squirrels which often take over bird feeders in mainland gardens!


There have been reports of people in the UK (and Europe) destroying their nestboxes in the belief that migrating birds will bring avian flu with them when they arrive to breed. According to the RSPB, the risks of migrating birds spreading avian flu is ‘very small’ so it is safe to carry on providing a home and food to birds.

A common sense approach will minimise any risks which exist:

wash your hands before and after handling any food;
regularly clean feeders and water bowls;
should you find any, dispose of dead birds carefully.

For an up-to-date explanation of the avian flu situation visit this site:


RSPB Birdfeeder Guide, by Robert Burton. 2000. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN: 0751303631. £16.99 (hardback).

RSPB Pocket Birdfeeder Guide, by Robert Burton. 2004. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN: 140530250X. £5.99 (paperback).

The Secret Lives of Garden Birds, by Dominic Couzens. 2004. Christopher Helm Publishers. ISBN: 0713666161. £14.99 (paperback).

(Remember that buying from Amazon using the link on the website will raise funds for Northwood Primary School).


No responsibility is accepted for the quality of product or service from the companies listed in section 1.

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