Gardening for the birds and how to attract more birds to the garden is one of the most popular additions to having a garden for many. As the winter cold sets in, by supplementing their food you can do your bit to help them survive as the city becomes colder, drier and the food sources get less.
As the colder weather approaches, the birds in the city move closer to buildings and the safety of your garden. Nature looks after the wild birds by supplying berries and seeds to supplement the limited supply of bugs and such.
You can plant a selection to keep them coming back to you or place a feeding station near some fresh water in a bird bath to attract them to your garden. No feeding station should be without Suet balls, Bird Seed and some Fruit. The more varied the selection of food you put out the wider the range of birds that come to your garden will be.
Food for thought
The easiest starting point to get the birds to love your garden is to put birdseed out regularly. Start with a smaller amount and then increase your serving. If you overfeed birds they will just waste it so rather feed less, more frequently. We recommend you use wild birdseed rather than garden birdseed if you want to look after the smaller birds. Garden birdseed traditionally has mielie bits in it which tends to attract the pigeons and doves. The Bird seed bells and tower block feeders are great for attracting smaller birds as the doves and pigeons can’t hold on to them to feed and the birds don’t waste the seed by throwing it off the feeder.
Bird Suet has become very popular with our local birds and with good reason. High in protein suet helps to fatten the birds up to protect them against the cold nights and to maintain their energy levels. Soft enough for baby birds too, we recommend always adding suet to your feeding station even through spring breeding season. The nutty bird pudding will also help to fatten them up in much the same way and attracts different birds.
Nectar Feeders will attract the Sunbirds and White Eyes to the garden and can also be used as a water dispenser. Don’t forget the fruit feeding birds which love a bit of apple or orange.
Bug eating birds
Leave the fallen leaves in the garden as these will provide micro-habitat for various insects, grubs and worms, which will in turn attract insect feeders such as Cape robin-chats, Karoo and Olive Thrushes as well as African hoopoes. These birds love the dense undergrowth of gardens where they turn over leaves and debris in search of grubs.
By installing a bug box you will find some of the beneficial insects finding a home in your garden which in turn gives these birds even more insects to find in the garden.
As safe spots to breed become harder to find in the city more often than one thinks birds will use a nesting box. In our local area there are a number of Owl boxes as well as Cape Robin boxes installed and all quickly occupied.
Nesting logs are a favourite with barbets who use them for breeding. Anchor the logs vertically on tree trunks several metres off the ground with the starter hole facing south and slightly downwards. This will prevent rain getting in and protect the nest from overheating in summer.
Water for birds
Every garden should have water for the birds either in the form of a bird bath or a water feature that they can stand in. With less rain through winter water also becomes scarce for birds so your garden bird bath will certainly get more attention this time of the year.
Place bird baths in the quieter part of the garden, preferably near thick foliage and established trees, so that the birds can perch nearby and not feel exposed. A water feature that has a basin that is too deep won’t help. Add some pebbles or a large stone in the water to give the birds a spot to stand and have a bath.
A bird bath near your feeding station is a good idea as it gives them everything in one spot and keeps them coming back, much like we do to our local convenience store.
Remember to keep the bird bath topped up regularly as many birds will frequently visit to drink and bath.