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How to attract small birds

I live in the London suburbs next to a main road, so we don't get many small birds in our garden. I would like to change that if possible. We have a pair of robins who nest in a small tree in our garden - they're a real blessing and we enjoy their company when gardening - but otherwise we only really get magpies and pigeons.

Can anyone recommend bird food and (squirrel-proof) bird feeders to attract a wider variety of birds? I don't even care which small birds we attract - I'm really not fussy!


  • FireFire North LondonPosts: 17,116
    edited March 2018
    Suet balls and sunflower seed can attract a wide range of birds such as various finches and tits. They often can be shier in London (I'd say) so I put my feeders in the bushes so that the little birds feel safe and have somewhere to hide. It also means pigeons and predators can get at them so easily. If you don't have shrubbery, perhaps think of putting some in.  Don't forget to put out fresh water too.

    I would say to be very patient too. Sometimes nervous birds (like mine) can take weeks to get used to new feeders, or moving feeders. Try out things over the summer and see what works. Don't give up. If you have lawn or a pond, very tall trees or good nesting opps, you will may variously different sets of birds. 
  • Valley GardenerValley Gardener Rhondda ValleyPosts: 2,696
    The few I have coming to the food,have taken ages to be brave enough.The pair of Robins have always been here,but the previous house owner didn't encourage them.
    I bought a fairly expensive seed holder,to deter the big birds,but I see that they have a very good selection of feeders in Lidls this week,peanut,seed,fastball all with an outer cage to protect from the big birds and squirrels.
    The small birds have now increased to a Wren,Bullfinch,Starling,Sparrows and a pair of blackbirds.I'm finding that half an Apple on the bird table is being eaten,but I don't know who's having it! The bird table is adorned with chicken wire to keep the big birds out!!
    The whole truth is an instrument that can only be played by an expert.
  • Valley GardenerValley Gardener Rhondda ValleyPosts: 2,696
    Not Fastball!!! Fatball,damned predictive text!!😁😁
    The whole truth is an instrument that can only be played by an expert.
  • Valley GardenerValley Gardener Rhondda ValleyPosts: 2,696
    PS  I'm not being unkind to the big birds,but next door neighbour puts out great chunks of bread and cake,for the magpies and Jackdaws!!!
    The whole truth is an instrument that can only be played by an expert.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,326
    The RSPB website has lots of really good information on how to attract birds to your garden, including plants, places to nest, birds baths and all the other things that make a place bird friendly - not just food

    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,560
    Once you have feeders put out a little food at a time as it can take some time for the birds to recognise what is on offer and be comfortable taking it.   That way you reduce waste.   It's important to refresh the supplies and remove any stale food and also clean your feeders regularly to keep everyone healthy.

    Be aware also that neighbouring gardens may be feeding birds and they'll go to what they're used to.  Provide shelter and fresh water but also have some feeders out in the open away from pouncing cats.   Some birds are ground feeders and won't use hanging feeders so find a good place to scatter some decent seeds or meal worms for them too.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FireFire North LondonPosts: 17,116
    There's lots on the rest of the GW website about attracting birds.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,215
    A lot has to do with how safe they feel, as said already.

    If you have a high number of cats around you will have a low number of birds around. They will just find the area too dangerous to hang around.

    I speak as a cat owner and a bird watcher. High, inaccessible, bird tables with a roof, either on a pole or hanging from a tree branch, are popular here.

    The danger is not always from cats though. Eyes are everywhere.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Mary370Mary370 Limerick, Ireland Posts: 2,003
    This is the first year I have'nt tidied my garden in Autumn by pulling up the annuals and cutting down any of the perennials until the Spring.  There has been a notable increase in the little birds around this Spring, I also thought the little birds stayed away from my garden because of my 3 cats, but they just had no reason t come.  I will leave the tidy up until Spring every year now.
  • Bagpuss57Bagpuss57 South West Posts: 256
    Hi garden noob. I asked the very same question about attracting birds a year or so ago, I live in the edge of a town in the south west. I planted some large shrubs and small trees, I introduced a bird feeder table with wire around to help protect small birds (they can get in but squirels and pigeons can't and makes them feel safer if cats are around) I still get cats coming into the garden but since adding trees, shrubs and feeders near safe escape routes for birds they have come and continue to come especially around this time of year through to summer, then it gets quieter but they return in early spring! I have goldfinches that love sunflower hearts, sparrows and the occasional bluetit. On the bird house feeder there is a regular robin and blackbird. I have noticed that the blackbirds are clever and remember where you put food and go to that same spot each time they visit. The blackbirds and robins love mealworms and blackbird also loves raisins, apple, grated cheese and old wrinkled grapes or blueberries. If you build it they will come! Just make sure they have regular supply of food and water and places to hide and an escape route if they feel threatened. Shrubs with berries birds love will also draw them in, especially when food might be needed to feed young or when other sources of food is scarce. Good luck and let us know how it goes! It's great fun watching the birds and exciting when new birds find your garden! 
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