Attracting ‘Garden Birds’

As I sit writing this, and the next few posts, I’ve just had a first ‘garden tick’ for our place in Leeds. As I sat at the desk starting this post, I heard the distinctive ‘tchicking’ of a Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major). A little searching out the window (and a bashed head for my trouble), and I found him sitting high in an Oak in the front garden. A prompt to put some better fat cakes out in the back, maybe draw him down.

Baby House Sparrow, Leeds, 2012

Since moving to Leeds, despite having a postage stamp of a garden surrounded by tarmac, we’ve built a healthy little population up. There’s at least 8 House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), a pair of Dunnocks (Prunella modularis), a pair of Wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes), Blue Tits (Cyanistes caeruleus), Great Tits (Parus major), Coal Tits (Periparus ater), Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), and Blackbirds (Turdus merula).

Long-Tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus) pass by frequently, but have only once been down to the feeders. We also get two young Magpie (Pica pica) siblings, Woodpigeons (Columba palumbus), and Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocto). Red Kites (Milvus milvus) frequently pass overhead, and I’ll talk more about them in a future post.

Red Kite, Harewood House, 2011

I’ve often talked to friends and family about the best mix of food to use. I’m a big fan of black sunflower seed, or huskless mixes that contain sunflower hearts. We get through so much now, I tend to buy a 15kg bag and store it in a sealed bin in the garage.

We always try to have a feeder stocked with nyjer seed (you need a special type of feeder here) as that’s great for Goldfinches and Siskin (Carduelis spinus). A ground-feeding tray will tend to have the same seed-mix, maybe supplemented by dried mealworms and suet ‘nibbles’. I also like to have a good fat-cake hanging up, especially in winter.

It’s great if you have a large garden. We’re house-hunting at the moment, and it’s a key feature for us. But as I’ve just said, we get a dozen species in our tiny garden without much effort. When I lived in Bolton I had no garden at all, just a yard. Yet even there, with a couple of hanging feeders, I saw plenty of tits, robins, blackbirds, and thrushes. The same applies to flats if you have a window feeder, or a balcony to hang from. So there’s no excuse!

Actually my Bolton highlight for the ‘garden’ was this splendid male Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) that landed on the kitchen roof:

Sparrowhawk, Bolton, 2011

If you’ve any tips on attracting birds to the garden, or want to share great garden ‘ticks’, feel free to use the comment section.

Just to be curmudgeonly, I really hate the term “garden bird”. It carries an implication of domestication that I think is unhealthy, and also fosters a notion of separation, that there are some birds that *should* be in our gardens, and some that shouldn’t. But I’m onto a loser trying to change that one! When I say it, I just mean a bird seen in a garden, whether it’s a traditional ‘garden bird’ or not.


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3 Responses to Attracting ‘Garden Birds’

  1. Pingback: The Pecking Order – Watching garden birds Part One | Why watch wildlife?

  2. Pingback: Birdsong – Watching garden birds Part 3 | Why watch wildlife?

  3. Pingback: “Gullgate” – What really needs culling? | Why watch wildlife?

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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