The RSPB big garden bird watch is coming up at the end of this month, and you can make a difference wherever you are by getting involved in this fun and free activity. This helps the RSPB to collect important data which is then put towards future conservation strategies to help look after our precious and declining birdlife. Everyone and anyone can get involved – place yourself in your garden, local woodland, or park for an hour between 28th and 30th of January, watch the birds and count how many species land around you, then go online to the RSPB website and tell them what you’ve seen! Easy Peasy! We will leave a link at the bottom of this blog which will direct you to the RSPB website if you’re interested in getting involved… and hey, it might even spark up a new passion.

We will of course be taking part here at the Bell Plantation and will even be having an RSPB stall in store on Saturday the 29th of January, which gives our visitors an opportunity to have a chat with the RSPB team about the ways you can help wild birds and find out more about the big garden bird watch.

Considering this event, we wanted to shed some light on the importance of the UK’s birdlife and our recommendations on how you can attract more birds to your garden, how to make your garden more wildlife friendly, and the foods you can (and cannot) feed birds.

The importance of birds –

Sadly, the decline of birds has been gradual issue over a slow period in the UK with the vast majority affected being farmland birds. Factors such as increasing demand of cheap goods, extensively worked farmland and soaring population growth are all unfortunately contributing towards the decline of biodiversity. Which equals to a vast amount of a bird’s natural habitat being lost due to the impact of environmental devastation caused by human nature and huge changes in agriculture.

Birds are far more important to our planet than we think and play an essential role in our eco systems that affect us directly; they do this by controlling pests, pollinating plants, distributing seeds, and maintaining important habitats, so it’s vital we do what we can to help our winged friends.

Gardening for wildlife –

Gardening for wildlife has becoming increasingly more popular around the UK as we are becoming more and more knowledgeable on how important our bird and wildlife are. Garden design has had its own impact on the survival of wildlife, with artificial gardens becoming somewhat a thing of fashion in recent times, meaning natural and native foliage is being replaced with fake grass and decking etc.

There are easy steps you can take in making your garden more bird and wildlife friendly; trees, shrubs and climbing plants can be put in gardens of all sizes as they offer a place of shelter and natural nesting sites. The RSPB advise that native hedges are best, with the most ideal being – hawthorn, beech, spindle, blackthorn, hazel, holly, field maple, buckthorn. Sunflowers, teasels, shrub roses, guelder roses, cotoneaster, rowan, honeysuckle, and ivy are also great at attracting birds as they produce food.

Attracting more wildlife to your garden –

Bird watching and care can also have a tremendous impact on our mental health, and with the hustle and bustle of modern life this can be a therapeutic way to relax. Here are some simple steps you can take to help your local birdlife…

Putting up bird and nest boxes can attract wild birds in search of areas to breed, which is not only a lovely thing to watch in your garden but of course provides a safe space for breeding birds. Ensure your bird boxes are placed in a safe and sheltered area out of the way of direct sunlight; and do make sure each winter your boxes are cleared out of any old nesting material and cleaned.

Make sure there is a source of fresh water for your garden birds; a bird bath or even a suitable sized bowl of fresh water will suffice (make sure the water is shallow). Access to water is vital for a bird’s survival as it provides drinking water which is especially important for birds who eat dry foods, and an area when they can wash. Make sure you keep the water clean and remove ice in harsh conditions (tip – leave a ping pong ball in birds’ baths in frost to help prevent it from freezing over).

By providing the right food and conditions in your garden, you can attract a variety of birds including rare species. If you are putting out bird feeders and tables, make sure they are placed in a safe spot out of the way of predators and away from the house to avoid window collisions. It is a good idea that your feeders are regularly cleaned of old and moulding seed to reduce the risk of spreading diseases. And remember, if you do begin to feed wild birds, they quickly become accustomed to it and rely on this food source, so do make sure they are routinely topped up.

Specific feed for wild birds

Peanuts

Peanuts attract chaffinches, woodpeckers and nuthatches.

Niger Seeds

Niger seeds are particularly tasty to goldfinches, robins and siskins.

Sunflower Hearts

Sunflower hearts are loved by goldfinches, house sparrows, robins and siskins.

Mealworm

Mealworm will be thoroughly enjoyed by robins, blue tits, song thrushes and blackbirds.

Suet Blocks & Fat Balls

Suet blocks and fat balls are suitable for a lot of birds, but more specifically blue tits and the occasional great spotted woodpecker.

Household food suitable for birds

Fruit

Fruits without seeds such as berries, raisins, grapes, mashed bananas and apples or pears without any seeds.

Cooked Rice

Cooked rice (white or brown) and make sure there is no added salt.

Cooked Potato

Cooked potato is a treat for birds such as cold and opened baked potatoes, roast potatoes, and mashed potatoes (no processed potato such as crisps or chips).

Uncooked Oats

Uncooked oats are great, make sure to only put small amounts out at a time,  with a water source nearby. Ensure they’re never cooked as they can harden around a bird’s beak.

Grated Cheese

Mild grated cheese is a lovely treat.

Pastry

Cooked or uncooked pastry is great – even more so when made with real fats.

Foods to avoid

Desiccated Coconut

Desiccated coconut can swell up in a birds stomach and cause real problems.

Avocado

Avocado contains toxins which is deadly to birds.

Chocolate

Chocolate is highly toxic to birds.

Salt

Even a little bit of salt can be toxic to birds.

Bread

We would advise you to avoid bread; bread is not harmful to birds but offers no nutritional value to their diet.

Sign up here for the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch!

Want to find out more or have questions then please do come and talk to our experts

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