Tuesday, 20 March 2007

No birds at the feeders

We are in the third week of March and many garden birds will begin nesting soon. These birds will no doubt have done their homework in finding good food sources which will feed themselves and their future hungry chicks. Caterpillars feeding on shrubs and trees will provide a good food source for the new chicks and the location of the nest may itself be close to both natural food sources and garden feeders. Is it too late to hang up new bird feeders?

I have a young reader who is desperate for the birds to visit his garden. A few weeks ago he bought a bag of the RSPB Sunflower seed mix and put it out on a tray on top of his picnic table. No birds were seen taking any interest at all - except for a passing crow! He was very disappointed. I suggested he put up seed feeders - hanging them opposite a neighbour’s large tree. My theory was that when the birds rested on the branches of this tree they would be able to see the feeders – then come down and use them! If just one or two birds came then more could follow. He did this and it has now been a week since the feeders were put up, with the sunflower seed mix and extra sunflower hearts. Disappointingly there are still no signs of visiting birds.

Gardens with children often have swings and other outdoor play equipment - perhaps pets with hutches too. There is often an area with bark under swings etc and often a piece of grass for play. Eating outside requires an area for the picnic or patio table – so we then have patio and decked areas. Trees and shrubs are then not a priority when space is at a premium – but pots can be used and moved around the garden when necessary.

This garden has all of these. However it also has boundary hedges (privet and leylandii) were the birds could find insects, shelter and safety from preying cats. It also has clematis growing up a trellis below the feeders and also in another area up and over part of the bird table – I would expect insects could be found there too.

Are shrubs absolutely crucial in attracting birds to a garden? There are no shrubs in this garden. Do birds look for natural food sources first before using the hanging feeders and tables? I have suggested patience and the birds will eventually come to the feeders – but am I wrong? At this time of year do the birds stick to known sources of food and don’t risk energy looking for new ones?

Can you help? If anyone has any suggestions on how my young reader could attract birds into his garden could you please add them to the comments section below – where he could read them. Alternatively you can mail me and I can pass the information on to him. It would be a great pity when he is so interested in birds that he could miss out on watching them in his own garden.

Thanks

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