There’s something lovely and calming watching birds feed, bathe and chase each other, whist you enjoy a leisurely breakfast or an afternoon cuppa.
If you have access to the outside world, whether that is a small balcony or a large garden, I will show you how to attract a variety of beautiful birds that will bring you hours of joy and entertainment.
A few years ago, after watching a wildlife program that talked about the decline and struggle of some native, British garden birds, my husband and I embarked on a quest to help feed and water some of the few varieties we noticed in our garden.
We bought a couple of bird feeders, set them up outside the dining room window, added some regular bird seed, sat back and waited for our new found pets to arrive.
After a day or 2, we attracted plenty of birds to the feed. However the variety was limited to sparrows, starlings and a few pigeons.
Although the energetic sparrows and starlings are lovely to watch (especially when there’s a group of them having a frenzied bath) they weren’t the exotic ‘birds of paradise’ we hoped for.
Since those early days we have tried out a variety of bird feeders, experimented with various feeds, re-positioned the feeders (more than ten times once) and added some ‘bird friendly’ accessories.
We are now at the point where those sparrows and starlings have ompany; dunnocks, blackbirds, thrushes, robins, blue tits, great tits, gold finches, chaffinches and most recently green finches.
The pigeons and starlings are still visiting. As I write this we have pigeons nesting in our wall climber on the side of the house, protecting 2 eggs.
Pigeons are very difficult to deter, and are the most stubborn, persistent buggers we have encountered. But they do provide a source of amusement!
We are always experimenting to find the best feeders, feed, and locations, and have come up with 6 top tips to attract the more ‘desirable’ smaller birds into your garden.
6 Tips to Attract Small Birds into Your Garden
1. Be Like Mrs Hinch Finch – Clean, Clean, Clean
Regularly cleaning your feeders is a must if you want your favourite, feathered friends to keep returning.
If your feeders become covered in bird droppings the birds will eventually stop returning. Worst of all, you could make them very ill and spread disease – yes it is that serious.
Check out the RSPB website for more information and advice on how to keep your bird table healthy.
Our first few feeders looked great for a few weeks, but when it came to clean them, some of the feed had soldered together, and little seeds would get stuck everywhere.
You should not need a spanner-set to clean your feeder!
We’ve gone through a lot of poorly designed feeders – and not just cheap ones either.
Like most newbies, we didn’t realise how often feeders needed to be cleaned. Some people advocate cleaning them every time the feeder is empty, which could be every day or so.
The main takeaway is to prevent seed, nuts, fat-balls etc. from becoming stale.
Bird droppings can be a big problem for birds if not cleaned up. It can spread disease and make birds very sick.
Whilst keeping an eye on droppings and cleaning up, you should occasionally relocate your feeders to different areas of your garden.
This will give the ground chance to recover, and for you to clean an area that has been used for a while. We now move our bird feeders around at the start of each season – so 4 times a year.
Choose feeders which come apart easily, which makes cleaning them easier to do.
Do not underestimate how important this is. It will make your life so much easier.
We’ve bought these RSPB Premium Easy Clean feeder recently. The top and bottom come off – no toolbox needed!
They aren’t too big (9 inches), and the holes are small enough to deter pigeons and crows etc.
It’s also RSPB approved with 100% of the profits going to the charity.
2. Deterring Large Birds
To attract the smaller wild birds into your garden, it’s just as important to try and deter the larger varieties.
Despite their dopey persona, pigeons are clever – and persistent. Just recently we seem to have a mastermind level pigeon… like it’s been me against the pigeon for weeks.
Having feeders in a cage is probably the most effective type of feeder we’ve found to prevent pigeons or pigeon size birds devouring our bird seed and freighting off the little ones.
Go for a wide cage to keep all but the smallest and the long-necked variety at bay.
Caged feeders work the best. There’s no way pigeons, crows or starlings can get in.
They are also fully squirrel proof.
Our little sparrows, robins, blue tits, coal tits, goldfinches and green finches, are all happy to sit within the cage and eat the feed.
No bullying from the bigger birds, and full protection from any predators.
You can get caged feeders for fat-balls, peanuts or regular seed. Personally I think they’re the perfect feeder for attracting small birds into your garden.
I have also taken the DIY path to one of our feeders that was under pigeon attack – not as attractive – but the little birds don’t mind.
I simply cut some wire fencing up and wrapped it around the feeder. I also made a couple of larger holes – just big enough for the little birds to get through.
It works a treat if you don’t want to spend any more money on a caged feeder.
3. Use Smaller Bird Feeders
Peanuts and nyger seed seem to take ages to be eaten in our garden. For that reason we replaced some of our original feeders with much smaller ones.
Nyger seed feeders with the little holes are naturally big-bird proof, and are great for attracting goldfinches.
We have one of these among our feeders, ensuring our wee birds always have a place at the table.
It may mean replacing the feed more often, but it does prevent moldy leftovers and glued together peanuts.
Yes, you need to be filling them up more regularly, but that’s a good opportunity to clean them out.
It also means more of your little family can get to the trough quicker and you will attract full bird colonies – we started with a pair of gold finches, now we feed their extended family.
4. Experiment With Different Feed
Birds are much like us, in that they all have their favourite type of food.
Try experimenting with different types of food to attract different birds.
We have a range of feeders offering up a tasty buffet of fat balls, sunflower hearts, peanuts, mixed seeds and nyger seeds. This seems to attract a wide variety of small birds.
Sunflower hearts are a pricier treat, but well worth it. It’s like ‘catnip’ for our goldfinches and newly acquired green finches. They absolutely love sunflower hearts and are at the feeder almost constantly.
We think our little mini parrots are worth it, especially during the breeding season when they need the extra fats. I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but I do!
To be honest, all the birds seem to love sunflower hearts. If you want an almost ‘guarantee’ to attract small birds into your garden, my number 1 tip would be to give them sunflower hearts.
5. Elevate Your Bird Feeders
Wild birds feel safer if they can perch in natural trees and bushes. Even more so if they are high up.
We are lucky to have a tree and some bushes where we can place some of our feeders. But as we like to see our bird friends, we bought one of those bird feeding stations.
It worked fine, but when we read about the birds preferring to be higher from the ground, we upped our game by creating a taller stand.
We then added a couple of dead tree branches around the stand. The birds love it.
Having a bit of natural camouflage around the stand and a bit more height certainly seems to give them more confidence.
We noticed an immediate increase in the amount and frequency of visitors.
Plus it’s a lot safer higher off the ground, away from ninja-like, local moggies.
6. Provide Your Birds With Clean Water
Eating seed makes birds thirsty, and if you provide them with clean water they will be more inclined to eat and drink at their new favourite cafe!
They also love to bathe, especially in the warmer months.
We added a stone bird bath, and they love it. It has definitely completed our little bird oasis.
We shopped around a lot!
It shouldn’t be too deep to scare your non-swimmers, but deep enough for a good old splash!
Some days we’ll see starlings, goldfinches, sparrows and blue-tits all sharing a bath.
There are some lovely looking bird baths, and you can choose one or two that fit in with the style of your garden.
I really like this type of style that has a solar light and looks really pretty..
We also have a smaller bird-bath, which just gets used for drinking out of.
Don’t be afraid to have more than one watering hole. The birds will thank you for it.
Attracting the smaller, more pretty birds into your garden is a pleasure everyone should experience.
With a little time and experimentation you’ll soon be welcoming different varieties of colourful and tuneful birds.
Not only does it give you hours of enjoyment, it also helps maintain our lovely native British birds, especially when their natural environment is ever shrinking.