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.
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.