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Why are birds not using the feeders + how to make the garden better for biodiversity?

donothingdonothing Posts: 10
edited February 2021 in Tools and techniques

I had two bird feeders, one with seed and one for lard balls, originally hanging off the side of the shed. The one with seed used to empty out in the summer. In autumn, the seeds weren't touched but when I put out lard balls mixed with seeds when it got a bit colder, they were eaten up. But about a couple months ago, neither were touched. So about a month ago, I moved them to the back of the shed (circled in red in first picture) where there is a mini-"pond" of sorts and more cover - I noticed birds flocking there in summer and autumn, plus it's more sheltered so thought the feeders were more likely to be used. However, since then, neither the seed feeder or the lard balls appear to be touched. I've seen robins and what looked like a sparrow out in the garden, plus magpies and pigeons.

I should add I live in a newly built housing development, and the soil was nothing just about a year ago; all the plants and gardening in the development has only happened in the last year, so maybe wildlife is only coming in now.

But I did notice that with some lard balls I left on top of the wooden fences, robins and other birds would come and eat it. But not the ones in the feeders?

If it's not eaten, should I just put them on the fences eventually before the temperature goes up and there's a risk of it going rancid?

Follow up question, what vegan options are there for fat balls, instead of buying suet or lard (for cultural/religious reasons)?

Also, what about the seed feeder?

Due to the cold weather, I also put peanuts in the cups hanging off the side of the shed and those were eaten up in no time and I replaced them! Peanuts placed on the ground (despite risk of mice), I saw being eaten by pigeons, a magpie and I think a robin (I am not good at identifying anything that's not a pigeon/dove).

One more thing: while keeping a few areas for vegetable growing in the summer, I've made about half the garden either perennial herbs and (most of it) a wildlife plants/shade plant mix for bees, etc. Would creeping thyme be a good idea for covering the slabs and tiles to provide extra source of nectar?
I also left some parts of the garden (not visible in photo) untouched, and with debris - there is a mouse running around but during the summer not much damage was dealt and until there's evidence that action is needed, I've just left the garden be apart from the patches for vegetable growing. Any other advice on how to make the garden a better place for biodiversity?



  • SueAtooSueAtoo Posts: 347
    With the snow it's difficult to see if you have soil at the base of the fences. If you have, I would definitely go for cover on the fences for birds and for aesthetics, some evergreen though not necessarily all. Shrubs if you have room, especially those with berries.
    East Dorset, new (to me) rather neglected garden.
  • I can't claim to be an expert, but I know birds like to feel safe when they visit the feeders. In part, that's being able to look out for predators before they land on the feeders and while they're on there. We get lots of goldfinch to our feeders, but they'll often perch on the neighbours monkey puzzle for a while to scope things out. Might be that between the fence and shed there isn't enough line of sight for them? Once the tree you have growing is a bit taller, that might give a good perching point either for them to look around, or hang feeders on. 

    The RSPB site has good info on where to site your feeders. General rule of thumb is a couple of metres from a fence or wall and with plenty of entrance and escape routes. 

    The type of feed you put out will also affect what birds you get. The goldfinch love our sunflower hearts, sparrows go for the mixed seed. On our shed roof I nailed together some offcuts of wood to make a flat feeder that blackbirds and pied wagtails use daily. Afraid I can't help with any vegan options. 

    Hope that helps a bit! 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353
    I think you need to invest in some proper feeders and place them more carefully  @donothing :)
    Until you have cover, small birds will feel vulnerable, but if you have the feeders near the house, perhaps at the front of the shed, that would help. All that string around the ones you have isn't a very good idea - too easy for them to get trapped. 
    Many birds are ground feeders, so you can simply put a small amount on the paving for them each day, but the ones which don't, would appreciate a proper perch to access food. A good no mess seed will attract plenty of the common birds in the UK, and a feeder with  sunflower hearts will be popular for many as well.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • As for vegan fat-balls: I'm definitely not vegan, so don't know the details of what's required, but there are plenty options for solid vegetable fat. I just did a search for that phrase, and the top 3 results were offerings from 3 different supermarket chains.

    I make my own 'fat' stuff for the birds. Rather simple recipe of 1000g peanuts (chopped up in the blender) plus 500g fat. My ideal fat mix is half and half lard plus + beef dripping, the former being rather soft, and the latter much harder. I sometimes add some flour to give a more solid consistency. I don't see any 'dripping' in the nearby supermarket at the moment, so maybe next batch will be all lard. Melt the fat, stir in the ground peanuts, tip into 3 loaf tins or whatever to set. Seems to be a winner with long-tailed tits and many other birds.

    I might say, though it started because of what was open in lockdown, I'm generally using 'human quality' stuff as birdfood at the moment. And it's often cheaper than if you bought birdfood (is someone ripping us off?). E.g. today, from nearby 'wholefood warehouse', I got 500g raw peanuts for £1.81 (they had no 1kg packs today, which would have been more economical); 1kg sunflower seed ('hearts' if you like) £1.89. And the 'value' sultanas from nearby supermarket are under £1 for 500g.

  • B3B3 Posts: 27,015
    The trouble is, birds aren't vegans..
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • delskidelski Posts: 274
    edited February 2021
    B3 said:
    The trouble is, birds aren't vegans..
    The birds who visit the OPs garden have the same religious/cultural beliefs as the OP. Isn't that right, @donothing ?
  • TenNTenN Posts: 184
    As above you need a bit of space for birds to get in and out. This year we've had a lot more types of birds in the garden by varying the cover available, leaving bits to grow more freely for example. Me and the kids made our own fatballs using seedmix and veg suet from Asda.
  • WonkyWombleWonkyWomble Posts: 4,477
    Like @Fairygirl says, birds like to feel protected when feeding.  I have a rambling rose that goes over the roof of my shed.  I hang feeders from that as local cats can't get to it also the canopy of the rose shields the birds from the sparrow hawk that flies overhead and tries to hunt them.  This is in the middle of a city garden.  

    Again,  I have to agree that we can't impress our views on nature.  Birds aren't vegan.  I give them suet pellets which they love and have to fill the feeders 4 times a day sometimes.  I find in winter,  fat balls freeze and they can't get into them. 
    I also feed sunflower hearts.  So many birds come to the garden.  10 feeders in all. They also need shallow water to bath in and drink. 
    My feeders are by my wildlife pond which has a shallow end for birds to use. 
    I hope you manage to encourage them to your garden,  they are a joy to watch! 
  • My husband got me an amazing book for my birthday and I can't recommend it enough for improving your garden for biodiversity, however big or small! It's called Gardening for Wildlife by Adrian Thomas. It has great guides on what plants, trees, flowers etc to grow, how to have wildlife spaces, how to look after the different kinds of animals you may want to attract like birds, or butterflies, or amphibians - such as if you wanted to make a small wildlife pond in the back yard. Its super worth getting and really lovely to read through. I've been using it to pick the best flowers to grow for pollinators and best plants for the birds :)
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,852
    We have a large garden in the countryside and 2 cats plus a variety of raptors who can swoop in from on high.  I hang feeders on shepherd's crook style posts in the middle of an open area but only a short flying hop from a lilac, a silk tree and an ash from which the birds can scope out the terrain.

    I have another 3 pronged "arty" obelisk which is hopeless for climbing plants but makes another very good feeding station just at the end of our terrace and again with easy access from nearby shrubs where the small birds can safely gather, chat and then swoop.   Just by that is a slab where I scatter seed for ground feeders and that is also safe from cat pouncing.

    Moving your feeders into the open should help attract birds.

    You need to clear your fences of all that string and, if you can, attach horizontal, tensioned vine wires across them at 30 cm intervals so you can plant and train climbers up them to disguise the fences, add colour for you but also shelter and food for birds and some of the insects they eat.   There are all sorts of perennials and annuals that will attract insects and thus birds to your garden but the kinds you can grow well will be determined by the kind of soil you have.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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