In this guest post Tony Manhart, founder and editor-in-chief at Gardening Dream, shares his tips for making your garden more bird-friendly.
Whether young or old, many people enjoy birdwatching. It can be a relaxing way to pass the time, and it is interesting to learn about the different birds that occur where you live. Making your garden more bird-friendly is a great way to see more species from your own home.
In Ireland, there are 485 different species of birds. From the tiny Goldcrest to the majestic White-tailed Eagle and everything in between, Ireland is home to some remarkable birds, a variety of which you can attract to your own garden.
Ways to Make Your Garden Bird-Friendly in Ireland
No matter how small or large your garden is, there are many ways you can make it bird-friendly. Bird feeders, water baths, and native flowers are just a few of the many ways to encourage our feathered friends into your garden. By following a few simple steps, you can make your backyard an inviting place to your local birds.
Different birds will visit your garden year-round in search of food, water, and shelter. By providing these necessities, you can creat an environment where birds will feel safe and content.
Choose Native Plants
Choosing native plants wherever possible is one of the best ways to make your backyard more appealing to local bird populations. Native plants support more biodiversity than exotic species, which in turn provides natural year-round food for birds.
The greater the variety of native plants you can offer the better.
Shrubs and hedges can offer excellent cover four our feathered friends, and those featuring berries in autumn and early winter provide an invaluable food source for many species. Rowans and hawthorn, for example, are favourites of visiting winter thrushes like Fieldfare and Redwing, our resident blackbirds and song-thrushes and, if you’re very lucky, may even attract a visiting flock of waxwings.
Provide Appropriate Food
Providing food that is healthy and safe for birds is key to a bird-friendly garden. Bird-seed mixes are a great option, as many birds enjoy eating different varieties of seeds. If you use a bird feeder, be sure not to put it too close to a window, as a bird may mistakenly fly into it and injure themselves.
Goldfinches, redpolls and siskins are great fans of nyger seed, while sunflowers are popular with a variety of finches, sparrows and tits. Many birds love peanuts, which offer an excellent high-energy high-protein food source — just be sure to only feed peanuts specifically sold for birds, avoid salted or flavoured peanut snacks designed for human consumption.
High energy suet-based foods are also popular with birds, as are high-protein options like dried mealworms. Fresh fruit, like berries and cut-up apple (or even your discarded apple cores) can also be a delicious treat for birds.
Have a Water Source
Having a water source is something that your local birds will particularly enjoy. Not only does it give them fresh water to drink, but it also offers a place to bathe, helping keep feathers in tip-top condition.
Provide Shelter Options
Having a safe place for birds to stay will make them feel welcome. Shrubs, trees and hedges offer natural cover and potential nesting sites, but it’s also a good idea to provide an assortment of nest-boxes. As well as encouraging more birds to call your garden home during the nesting season, many species of small garden bird will use artificial nest-boxes as warm, dry, and safe roosting sites over the winter months.
Generally you should site nest boxes out of reach of predators in plenty of cover, out of direct sunlight and with the entrance facing away from the prevailing wind on your site.
Avoid Using Pesticides
Pesticides can be fatal to birds if ingested. Since many birds feed on invertebrates, avoid using pesticides in your garden and use natural fertilisers (like home-made nettle or comfrey feed, seaweed, or commercially available naturally based options).
Enjoy Your Bird-Friendly Garden
Having a bird-friendly garden in Ireland can be easier than you think. By offering a safe and inviting space, with food, water and shelter, you can naturally attract more birds to your garden.