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Get Ready for RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

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n the last 50 years, the UK has lost 38 million birds from its skies, highlighting that our native wildlife populations are in crisis! Nature conservation charity, RSPB, will soon launch its annual Big Garden Birdwatch to help experts understand more about Britain’s bird populations, encouraging nature lovers to get involved and count the birds in their gardens.

Attracting birds to your garden is something everyone can do, and it can be as big or as small a project as you want it to be. Head of CJ Wildlife Pro, Eric Michels shares some top tips on making your outdoor space more bird-friendly ahead of the count.

Food glorious food

As with most wildlife, food is one of the main features that will attract birds to your garden. Different birds like to feed in different ways, so setting up an array of feeders will help you to attract a variety of garden birds. Blackbirds and robins are ground feeders, and prefer tables or lower surfaces, whereas tits and sparrows prefer to feed from hanging stations.

The type of food you put out for birds is also important. As a rule of thumb, the more food varieties you put out, the greater the number of bird species that will visit your garden. There are three main groups that garden birds can be divided into; seed eaters, insect eaters, and birds that eat both! Sparrows and finches love food that is packed full of sunflower seeds, corn, and kibbled peanuts, whereas robins prefer food containing mealworms or dried fruit.

Foods high in fat are key for birds during winter, as well as for nest building and feeding their young. Sunflower seeds and peanuts are high in energy and can be found in fat products such as peanut cakes, fat blocks, and peanut butter for birds.

It should be noted that attracting a multitude of birds to your feeding stations can increase the risk of spreading disease, so it is important to ensure they are cleaned regularly, with any leftover food disposed of!

A safe haven

Nest boxes are a great way to encourage birds to return to your garden throughout the year. Unfortunately, there is a shortage of natural nesting sites for birds due to changes in agriculture and urbanisation, which is thought to be linked to the decline of many of our favourite species. Installing a nest box in your garden will replicate a natural nesting site, providing a safe haven for birds to rest and nest.

While it is common to install nest boxes in spring, we recommend that winter is in fact the best time to introduce a box. This will help birds to establish your garden as a safe area in preparation for nesting, as well as providing protection from winter weather conditions and predators.

Nest boxes are available in a variety of sizes to suit many birds. Robins and wrens prefer an open-fronted nest box, allowing them to gain access quickly and safely, whereas small birds such as blue tits and coal tits prefer a smaller entry hole. Our WoodStone nest boxes are constructed from a mix of concrete and woodfibres providing a safeguard from predators and insulating the nest, creating a more consistent internal temperature than a wooden box.

Baths and beyond

Water is just as important for birds as it is for any other wildlife, as it is needed for drinking and bathing. Most small birds need to drink at least twice a day, and bathe regularly to keep their feathers in good condition, especially during winter. Providing water bowls and baths in your garden will ensure that your feathered visitors are well-watered and pristine. Clean your birdbath regularly ensuring there is fresh water, breaking up and removing any ice during the colder months for easy access to water supplies.

Sit back and enjoy

Once you have encouraged birds to visit your garden, you can sit back and enjoy their company. It’s often very relaxing watching birds flit around the garden from feeder to feeder, chirping amongst themselves. For a more detailed view, why not invest in a pair of binoculars and enjoy the visit from a distance, or install a camera in your nest box to keep an eye on your feathered friends inside their home. Nest box cameras are great come nesting season as they are an insightful, yet non-intrusive, way to get up close and personal with fledglings without encroaching on their personal space.

Now you have everything you need to encourage birds to your garden and get involved with the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch from the 27th -29th January.

Use the RSPB free guide, to make a note of how many birds you see in your garden and send in your results. These statistics provide valuable information about the population of our garden birds, highlighting vulnerable species.

Visit www.birdfood.co.uk for more expert advice on your garden wildlife.

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