Improving Your Garden for Wildlife – Making Bird Feeders
Blog by: Lisa Critchley
There are plenty of birds in the garden at this time of year: courting, nesting and raising their young. I have watched starlings from courtship to nesting, and over the last week or so, have seen house sparrows bringing their fledglings into the garden to forage for food. Most people tend only to feed the birds during the winter months when food is in low supply but it is still helpful to feed the birds during this time of year, even when food seems plentiful. The RSPB website has a lot of information on summer bird feeding, including what mixes to use and keeping the feeding area hygienic.
No matter how small your garden is, or even if you do not have a garden, you can still improve your outdoor space for wildlife. Even if you only have a window that looks onto a street, you can still get inventive with bird feeders – you can attach them to guttering or use suction pads to stick them to your windows. If you have a tree outside your house, you can hang a feeder off that (check with your council first), you can even scatter birdseed on your windowsills. You really do not need a garden to make your outdoor space more bird friendly.
If you want to improve your garden or outdoor space for wildlife by making a bird feeder, watch the video to see how or read this article!
The bird feeder I will teach you how to make is a dry feeder, so it has no fat binding it together like in winter. This is because the fat may melt in the warmer weather, make a mess and go rank. You will probably find most of what you need to make these bird feeders around your house:
- Clean, dry, plastic bottle with cap – a clear bottle is best so you can keep an eye on the feed levels.
- Drawing pin to make holes in the bottle
- Scissors to make the holes larger
- Sticks/old pencils/doweling rods to make the perches for the birds to stand on
- String to hang the feeder up
- Bird feed – garage shops and supermarkets have bird feed at this time of year. Please note, if you or a member of your household is allergic to peanuts, check the ingredients list as a lot of bird feed contain peanuts
- First, make two holes opposite each other near the base of the bottle for the first perch. Use the drawing pin to make the initial hole and scissors to make it bigger; do not make it so big that the perch easily slides out. Be careful using scissors and if you are a child, ask an adult to help you. Turn the bottle 90 degrees and make two more holes above the first for the second perch. Push your perches through the holes.
- Turn the bottle upside down and put some drainage holes in the base, do not make these too big or the bird feed will fall out. The holes are to allow water built up from condensation to drain out.
- Make two holes near the neck of the bottle; these are for the string to go through so you can hang the bottle up. Take your string and thread it through the holes, it may be easier to take the bottle cap off for this.
- Cut a hole above each perch, about four centimetres up. This hole has to be big enough for the birds to get to the feed but small enough that the feed does not all fall out.
- Now fill your feeder up and screw the lid back on.
- Find a suitable place to for the feeder to be and hang it up. Make sure that the place where you hang your feeder is safe from cats. Hang it high enough off the ground and do not place it too close to a roof or top of a wall where a cat may be able to get to the birds from.
- The last thing to remember is bird hygiene. You will need to clean your feeder and ground underneath it every so often to prevent the spread of diseases amongst birds.
It will take the birds in your area a bit of time to find and get used to your new feeder so be patient. Once they find it and trust that it is safe to use, they will come flying in (‘scuse the pun…) to feed, especially as their young will be demanding more and more food as they grow.
The day after I hung my bird feeder up, starlings visited it. They are beautiful birds with their freckles and iridescent feathers and they certainly make a racket! Did you know that they also imitate other sounds around them? I remember thinking it odd to hear a curlew call whilst sitting in my brother’s garden in Northumberland, but then I saw the starling sitting in the tree! As the starlings use my feeder, they end up dropping seeds on the ground and house sparrows have flocked in with their fledglings to eat the fallen seeds. A shy wood pigeon has also visited. These birds were always in and around the garden, I hear them throughout the day in the tree and hedge, but it is nice to see them clearly when they come to eat the bird feed.
Remember to tag us in your bird feeder making adventures and let us know what birds visit your garden! If you need help identifying the birds, the RSPB website is a very useful resource for this.
I want to say a huge thank you to our funders, Heritage Lottery Fund, for making this video and all our continued work possible during the lockdown. We at Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership are very fortunate to still be able to reach out to the public to continue to educate, inform and upskill them in natural and built heritage around Lough Neagh.
Anyone can improve their outdoor space for wildlife, no matter how small it is. Watch this video to find out how to improve your area for birds by making a summer bird feeder.
Posted by Lough Neagh Landscape Partnership on Wednesday, 20 May 2020