Welcome birds to your garden

Welcome birds to your garden

House sparrow. Photo, Fergus Gill/2020VISION

Watch wildlife from the comfort of your home

Many birds that were once common have seen declines over the past 50 years, reasons are varied and complicated but lack of food and nesting sites are thought to be contributing to the decline.

Song thrushes, sparrows and starlings along with many other species are struggling to survive in the countryside but you can help in your garden by feeding the birds and providing nesting sites.

Blue tit on feeder with house in background

Photo, Ben Hall/2020VISION

Feed the birds

Putting up bird feeders is a sure fire way to attract birds to your garden. It may take a few days, or even weeks, for the birds to come to a new feeder so be patient.

Hanging feeders will attract many different birds including tits, greenfinches, goldfinches, house sparrows and robins.

Hang the feeders out of easy reach of cats and other predators and ensure the feeders are kept clean to stop the spread of disease. Keep them topped up to encourage return visits but make sure the feed is changed regularly to prevent mould.

Different birds will come to different types of feeder. A bird table will attract finches and thrushes will come to feed on the ground.

If you put out mealworms or sunflower hearts for the birds, make sure they are on a bird table or feeder and not on the ground. Hedgehogs love these foods, but they are not good for them as they have a high phosphorous content.

Vine House Farm Bird Foods

Did you know that when you buy bird food from Vine House Farm for the first time, £10 is donated to your local Wildlife Trust, and up to 4% of all future sales on an ongoing basis?

More about Vine House Farm Bird Foods

Robin perched on frosty crab apples

Robin. Photo, Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Many plants provide a natural food source for birds. Select plants that have berries, fruit and seeds.

Plants with berries and hips include: Ivy, crab apple, wild cherry, honeysuckle, hawthorn, pyracantha and holly.

Plants with seeds include: Teasel, sunflowers, old man’s beard, scabious and cosmos.

A log pile in a shady spot and a compost heap will encourage insects which will in turn provide good hunting grounds for birds that feast on insects. For lots lots of useful information to help you turn your home and garden into insect-friendly havens, check out our Action for Insects downloadable guide.

Take Action for Insects

Bath Time -Two young sparrows enjoying a bath in a puddle

Sparrow. Photo, Chris Speller

Something to drink

Birds also need a fresh source of water for drinking and bathing, this can be provided in the form of a bird bath or a simple dish of water. Ponds also provide a great source of water and will attract many birds.

Providing water is especially important in the winter when freezing conditions can mean ponds, puddles and other water sources freeze over and in the summer when hot, dry weather can make water hard to find.

Thinking of creating a wildlife pond? Check out our pond page.


Blue tit entering nest box

Blue tit. Photo, Gillian Day

Somewhere to nest

Provide nesting places for birds in your garden by planting trees and shrubs and putting up nest boxes.

Evergreen trees and shrubs such as holly and Pyracantha provide cover when deciduous trees are not yet in leaf. Later in the season, deciduous shrubs and small trees will provide nesting opportunities. Hawthorn is a great choice as the thorns give extra protection against predators.

Nest boxes are another great way to provide a home for birds in your garden. Choose the right box for the species you hope to attract. Most birds prefer a closed box with a small entrance hole, these come with a variety of hole sizes depending on the type of bird it is made for. Robins, wrens, blackbirds and song thrushes will use open-fronted boxes.

It is important to position your nest box in a sheltered location on a tree or a wall.

  • Try to make sure it is facing north east to south east which will protect it from the heat of the midday sun and the worst of the wet weather.
  • Ensure the box is at least 2 meters from the ground to put it out of reach of predators.
  • There should be a clear direct flight path to the entrance of the nest box so birds can easily and quickly access the box.

Boxes need to be cleaned every year. Use boiling water or warm soapy water, giving it a good scrub to prevent disease. The best time to do this is 2-3 weeks after the birds have fledged.

Do you live in Exeter?

Do you live in Exeter? Have you made your garden wildlife friendly?

The Exeter Wildlife Gardening Award invites you to add your garden to the patchwork of wild spaces across the city! It's easy to enter and you can receive a plaque, certificate and wildflower seeds. 

Enter the Wildlife Gardening Award