A garden for birds

Birds always bring a feeling of joy with them. It is always a joy for people to watch birds building nests or gathering food. There is nothing better than birds in your garden. But how do I get birds in my garden? Why are they in my neighbours garden but not mine? Read here how you can change your garden to attract and help local birds.

A Robin. Photo: Peter Trimming

Add variety to your garden

A garden with nothing but pavement won't be attractive to birds. A birds want to be able to hide quickly in case of danger. They want to dig in the dirt, in plants and garden waste to find bugs or eat some berries from bushes. To provide this it's important that the garden isn't too empty, or paved over. Try to add hight differences. You can do this by first placing a small lawn, surrounded by herbs, then larger bushes and if possible trees. Birds will feel far more comfortable in a garden with alot of plants of different hights.

A garden that's not that's pretty good for birds. There is a wide variety of vegitation, with a thin lawn and an increase in plant hight from the center going outward. Photo: Ben Laufer

Create foraging areas for birds

Food ofcourse in very important for birds. People often try to lure and help birds by placing food themselves. This can be a good thing, but often the wrong food is given, or in the wrong time of the year. The food is unhealthy, is rotting after some time and not removed or it can cause birds to become dependant on people for food. Especially birds that have been fed by people from a young age will have dificulty foraging by themselves if these people stop feeding one day. For these reasons it's better to provide food in the garden via more natural means. By placing the right vegitation and structures in the garden you can create a very suitable foraging area.


A small lawn will certainly be a gain for birds. The short grass makes it easyer for birds to catch worms and other small animals. This is great because animals love eating these, and so also remove pests from your lawn. In this way you provide food for them, and they protect your lawn in return. Don't make the lawn too large however. Birds enjoy having a bush nearby so they can hide in case of danger. A large lawn will also reduce the area that can be used to plant a wider variety of plants that could offer more types of food such as berries or seeds. A wider variety of food means you will attract a larger diversity of birds. 


Instead of paths made from pavement or gravel birds will be very happy if you make it from woodchips. Untreated tree trunks used as edging and a path made from woodchips attracts a huge amount of small animals. Wood lice, worms, millipedes and more all eat plant waste and will see this kin d of path as a feast. Birds love to dig through a path like this to hunt for these little critters. Adding soft wood that can rot over time will also provide such a feeding area. 

An open compoast heap is also interesting for birds. These also have a huge amount of small life inside them. Aspecially if you mix the heap every now and then to speed up the composting process you will quickly notice bords joinging you while you're working. They know that you are causing these little creatures to come out of hiding, making them easy pickings.

A path of woodchips, with a natural edging, is great for birds.

Place vegitation that provides food for birds

By placing alot of vegitation in your garden which provide food to birds you can help birds without having to feed them yourselves. There is a huge variety of plants that provide some kind of food to birds such as nuts, berries, fruits, seeds or insects. Every bird species has its own preferences for food, and so it's best to place a wide variety of food instead of alot of only one kind. Birds often also have a specific relationship with vegetation that's native to the place they live in. So using native vegetation works best.


Plants that provide fruit are always interesting. Apples or pears, redcurrant or brambles are not only nice for people to eat, but are also loved by birds. They love these fruits, not only while hanging on the plant, but also when on the floor. There are also alot of plants that make fruits that aren't good to eat for people, but birds do love. Pyracantha or Sorbus for example. Plants like Wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) and beggarticks (Bidens) have seeds which many birds eat. There are also plants that attract alot of insects, which are ofcourse also commonly eaten by birds.


For a full list of plants that help birds you can klick here:

Planting vegitation  in your garden that provide food for birds will help them much more than just placing some food every now and then. Photo: Matt MacGillivray

Provide water to birds

Birds enjoy a safe place to drink and bathe. A bird bath can provide a place for this. If it's in the right place, and has clean water in it, you will be able to enjoy the occational bird dropping by to take a quick wash. Aside froma  bird bath you can also provide a shallow area in a pond. Not only will birds love to wash in such places, but it will also attract all sorts of smaller waterlife, which birds will aso like to eat. Some birds have a strong relation with water. Er zijn vogels welke een zeer sterke relatie hebben met water. Aside from water birds there are also birds like the Common reed bunting, which lives at the waters edge. Creating a natural waters edge with a shallow part and vegetation will make them feel much more comfortable.


To create a suitable living area for larger waterbirds you either need a larger pond, or need to live at the edge of the water. Try to turn the waters edge into a more natural one, with shallow water water plants.

Provide nesting places and hiding areas for birds

Birds love waterbaths, but shallow areas in ponds are also commonly used by birds.

Birds can't survive if there are no suitable places for nesting or to hide from predators. Birds want the availability to be invisable when they are nesting, or hide inside a thornbush when a cat shows up. Fir these reasons it's best to provide bushes or trees in your garden that have very dense foliage, that are green in the winter or have thorns. Het is dus het beste om beplanting te plaatsen welke een zeer dichte bladvorm hebben, het liefste wintergroen, en struiken met doorns. A construction with Ivy (Hedera) commonly procides alot of nesting possibilities. Thick hedges with Hawthorn (Crataegus) or Firethorn (Pyracantha) are hard to penetrate for predators, and so are great for birds.


Birdhouses are always good, but do try and place them in sheltered areas. In the middle of a bush for example, or in a patch of Ivy so they are covered by the leaves. Birdhouses are often placed in the open, or too close to the ground. Here predators, often housecats, can spot them far too easily and will keep herassing them untill the parents leave, killing the young. The weather will also have a much bigger influence. When the birdhouse is in the full sun the temperatures inside can become far too warm for baby birds to handle. Cold weather can have the opposite effect. Without some covering the baby birds can get far too cold. So place them with some covering.


Bird houses aren't the only thins you can use to provide nesting structures. Old shoes, watering cans or plant pots can also be used by birds. Just place them high up inside some covering and let the bids discover it themselves. 


For a full list of plants that help birds, also with nesting locations, klick here:

A Eurasian wren building her nest in Ivy. Ivy is often used as a nesting site.

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