How to attract wildlife to your garden

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In case you didn’t know, it’s National Nest Box Week from 14th – 21st February. We’ve compiled some great tips and tricks from two avid bird lovers at Q towers, Richard Jackson and Dale Franklin. They have some wonderful advice on how to attract birds to your outdoor space, but it’s also important to create a home for them. National Nest Box Week exists to raise awareness of the fast disappearance of natural nest sites for birds, such as tree trunks. Click here to find out how to build a nest box for your feathered friends.

Richard’s top tips:

It’s really important to use a good quality bird food. Many are padded out with wheat flakes which have little , if any, nutritional benefit, so check the ingredients before you buy.

During the winter, and in the breeding and fledgling season (during the spring and summer), it’s best to use a high energy bird food like my Premium High Energy and No Waste Bird Food. Everyone knows how important these feeds are during the winter but, surprisingly, birds use up to ten times more energy in the spring and summer so it’s just as crucial to give them high energy feeds then too.

Richard Jackson bird food

When putting up a bird feeder for the first time, it may take a week before the birds start to use it, so you may need to be a little patient while they acclimatise to the new fixture.

Please also make sure that garden birds have plenty of fresh clean water for drinking and bathing.

Dale’s handy hints:

Attracting wildlife into your garden is possible wherever you live, be it town or country.

Often it’s easier to attract wildlife into urban gardens because to a greater extent urban creatures have adapted to humans, and many have learnt there’s often a quick meal to be had. You only have to see how brave foxes are in the towns and how tame squirrels and birds seem to be in city parks.

One of the quickest ways to attract wild birds is to provide a regular source of food.

I’ve been using Richard Jackson’s superb wild bird seed and I’ve attracted many species into my garden – some like the blue tits and robins are common sights, but his bird food mix has now attracted nuthatch, great spotted woodpeckers and coal tits – which I had never noticed in my garden before.

The greater the variety of food will attract a greater number of bird species and the time of year is a big factor as well. When food is scarce due to poor weather birds may be forced into looking at less natural food source options. Before laying eggs females will need plenty of food to produce healthy offspring, and once hatched they are looking for food 24/7 often producing two clutches in a year.

As well as the food consider where you position your feeding station – if it is too close to a bush they may fear an ambush from a predator, usually the local cat, but possibly a sparrow hawk! That said they’ll like a nearby tree to perch on before approaching the food.

Although many of us like a neat garden, allowing shrubs to grow a little higher and thicken up will attract birds such as blackbirds, thrushes, green finches and robins to nest, as they will provide excellent cover.
If you install nesting boxes, make sure you heed the following:

1. Make sure they’re securely fixed – I once watched a grey squirrel pull one of my nest boxes off a tree, with tragic consequences for the tiny blue tit chicks inside.
2. Make sure it faces north or east, and away from constant direct sun light. The height really depends on what birds you are hoping to attract to the box. Wrens and robins will nest much lower than woodpeckers for example. Make sure also rain can easily drain off the roof (this depends very much on the box design).
3. Generally speaking, make sure the parents can enter and exit the box fairly easily (robins sometimes make a nonsense of this statement).
4. Be patient and try and leave it alone, observing from indoors or a reasonable distance, if the birds keep spotting you looking inside they’re far less likely to feel it’s a safe nest site – I keep thinking of setting up a box fitted with a camera in like you see on BBC’s Springwatch, but I haven’t done so yet. One day!

Although this might not be to everyone’s taste, attracting smaller birds to your garden may also give you a sighting of a sparrow hawk, buzzard or a red kite.

Let us know in the comments of your plans to raise awareness for National Nest Box Week, and make sure you check out our fantastic garden and leisure department, as well as Richard Jackson’s blog for great garden inspiration.

3 Comments

  1. SJ February 15, 2017 at 7:48 am -  Reply

    Last year I put up a Teapot Box especially designed for Robins. I waited patiently and now Robins are placing straw and leaves inside.

  2. Gail February 15, 2017 at 11:04 am -  Reply

    I have 2 bird baths, 2 bird tables, 8 bird feeders, 2 dogs, 1 cat and foxes. I love ’em all and they are all treated like royalty.

    Nothing lovelier than the sound of bird song, or watching the little ones lined up around the bird baths. The lovely, romantic necking of the pigeons as they perch on the roofs of our surrounding neighbours . They are so gentle. The majestic Sparrowhawk perched on my shed, occasionally, waiting for the little ones to peak out from the ivy. I love them all and it’s a real pleasure to watch them all flourish.

    I have fed the foxes for years, decades now actually. They come and go as I know life is quite harsh to them, but I usually have the same one for 3 years or more. She sits on my wall, waiting. Sometimes she is accompanied by my cat. They are beautiful and I know she appreciates all we do for her.

    If you see anything struggling. feed and water them. Co-existing is the name of the game and nothing can exist without love and respect. Don’t be afraid to go out and meet your local wildlife; they are all out there waiting for you, but don’t forget the food and water. Go meet them, say hello and enjoy x

  3. Heather Mackay February 19, 2017 at 4:29 pm -  Reply

    I love all the birds in my garden to the moon and back. I have 2 robins in particular who are so so friendly. First thing I do in the morning is open my front door and if the grated cheese is not on the step within 5 mins Mr robin sits on the door step and sings. He lets me know he is there so hurry on up. I open my window and play the piano and the robin sits on the branch cocking its head from side to side and up and down. He definitely loves music and sits there for ever so long listening. I buy food all year round and put it out for all the birds. I have loads of bird boxes all over the garden and hope they nest in them. Last year I got an amazing photo of Mr Sparrow sitting on top of the bird house whilst Mrs Sparrow flew back and forth for hours feeding the little chicks inside. I waited patiently all morning and then got the shot. Mother feeding the chicks with their mouths wide open and Mr Sparrow on the top watching it all happen. I do hope I am not harming the birds with the cheese but they do appear to love it.

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