Open for business
When a new restaurant opens it put a big board outside with "Today's Specials" written on it. You must do the same for the birds.
I found the best way of initially
encouraging birds to my garden was to put out white bread. At 15p a loaf in Tesco's it didn't break the bank and effectively sent out the message far and wide to any bird flying overhead: FREE FOOD!
At the same time we put up a couple of feeders: one with peanuts and one with bird seed. These were the cheaper feeders but they did their job well enough. Once the birds saw the bread and were enticed in, other birds were attracted too.
We mainly had starlings to being with squabbling over the bread, with perhaps a few house sparrows. Not the most interesting of birds, but they helped encourage others in. Blue-tits somehow found the peanut feeds (although the starlings visited these as well, would you believe?). The occasional Magpie was attracted with all the commotion too.
Patience is required
When we started this we didn't know what birds to expect. So were just persevered with the bread, peanuts and seed for a while. It was now about April / May 2003 and parent birds were getting food for their chicks. Bread isn't a great food for growing chicks but what doesn't fat will fill, as my Dad told me as a kid.
By accident we found starlings love cheese
! Yes really! We put out a whole block of Tesco value cheese that had gone a bit mouldy and they attacked it with vigour. I guess it was pretty good to feed chicks as well.
So we now had starlings, magpies, ravens, blue-tits visiting our garden. We increased the number of feeders to try and prevent the squabbling. We also put up some fat balls - but a word of advice: don't leave them in the green plastic netting they come in. Birds can get their tongues caught in them. Please transfer them to purpose built fat balls feeders that cost pennies.
You can also get a wide variety of flat pack fat feeders
as shown here; these are maybe the size of a thick paperback book and fit into a special metal cage. The fat (suet) can contain seed, fruit, insects, nuts- in fact all manner of things designed to attract birds to your garden.
As a high-energy source of food this is surely one of the best for all types of birds, from starlings to tits. And any dropped food below the feeder will be picked up by ground feeder birds, such as collared doves, blackbirds and wagtails.
Take a chance on me
I did something really silly in about June 2003. I bought a special seed feeder that is only used for feeding Goldfinches. They eat mainly NIger seed
(also written Nijer) which is tiny
and would fall straight out of a normal seed feeder.
Well the website I ordered from (either Haiths
or CJ Wildbird Food
) warned about buying one of these if Goldfinches were not already visiting your garden (because no other bird would use them). But I bought one anyway.
In June 2004 we had our first, solitary Goldfinch
visitor. Somehow it had found the feeder (just how
do they do it?) and was feeding. We were spellbound. The Goldfinch is one of Britains prettiest birds, with a red face and yellow and green wings. He continued to visit now and again, sitting on the feeder perch for minutes at a time.
We now have 3 Nijer seed feeders and about 20 Goldfinch visitors. Wow! What a result! There are two distinct flocks: a group of 3 (with an occasional 4th) and a group of about 15. They don't get on very well and squabble very fiercely if both groups attempt to feed at the same time!