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British Garden Birds

Our brand-new bird library looks at the most popular birds you are likely to see in your garden. Our guides provide a brief overview of each bird, their diet, characteristics and habitats. We hope you will find these guides useful. Happy bird watching



Barn Owl

Blackbird

Blackcap

Black Browed Albatross

Black Throated Diver

Blue Tit

Bullfinch

Buzzard

Chaffinch

Coal Tit

Collared Dove

Dunnock

Goldcrest

Goldfinch

Great Tit

Greenfinch

Grey Heron

House Martin

House Sparrow

Jay

Kingfisher

Long Tailed Tit

Marsh Tit

Mute Swan

Nuthatch

Raven

Redpoll

Robin

Siskin

Skylark

Song Thrush

Starling

Turtle Dove

Wandering Albatross

Wood Pigeon

Wren

The Complete Guide To Observing Birds In Your Garden

Birdwatching in your garden can be an extremely relaxing and wonderful experience. Once you have created a haven for birds in your garden you can sit back and watch them flourish. Bird feeding is very popular in Britain, over half of adults in the UK feed birds in their garden. The arrival of birds can completely transform your garden, turning it into a haven for all sorts of stunning and brightly coloured birds. Observing and feeding birds in your garden can be extremely rewarding, especially if you are able to see birds flourish and help towards the conservation of these wonderful creatures.

You don’t need a big budget to start viewing birds in your garden. All you need to do is provide food and water and set aside some time to sit and watch them. Top bird food includes sunflower hearts, peanuts, Fat Balls, suet and bird mixtures. Watching birds in your back garden is one of the cheapest hobbies you can find. Leaving food for birds in your garden can help them to survive difficult periods where there is a lack of food or particularly severe weather. You can feed birds in your garden all year round, although there may be certain times of the year where they don’t need as much help. Don’t expect birds to come flocking to your garden as soon as you start to put food out. You might not be able to watch them from a window at first as they may get startled and fly off. Gradually, as they get used to your presence you should be able to get a closer look.

If you want to observe birds in your garden then you have something that will appeal to them. It’s not particularly difficult to attract birds to your garden, the main thing you need is bird food and a feeding post. Providing nesting boxes and fresh water will also help to bring a wide range of birds to your backyard. Birds like to preen and wash their feathers in b bird baths and also have the occasional drink. Water features and ponds can also help to attract the interest of birds and are a lovely addition to your garden. If you are on a budget you can just supply food, but water will bring more birds and keep them happier so they are more likely to return to your garden. Birds also like to feed, take shelter and nest in trees. If you don’t have many trees or bushes in your garden you may want to plant some that will be appealing to birds. Trees that grow fruit and attract insects will be most appealing.

Place your bird feeder in a spot that is close enough to shelter, as birds may need to take cover from predators. Try and also put it in an area that is well lit so that you can see the birds properly. If possible, place feeding posts at different levels to try and attract different types of bird. Once you have done this all you have to do is sit back and watch. Some common British garden birds you might see include the House Sparrow, Blue Tit, Robin, Starling, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, and Great Tit. If you want to be able to recognize the different birds that you see in your garden you may want to buy a book that has details of all the different birds. Every time you see one you don’t know look it up to try and identify it. Make a note of how many different birds you see for future reference.

The type of birds you will see in your garden will depend on a number of factors. For example, whether you live in a rural or urban area can make a big difference. The size, age, and vegetation in your garden will also influence what birds choose to come and visit. Once you really get into birdwatching in your garden you will start to notice different bird behaviours. Birds are more focused on breeding and rearing a family and in winter their main concern is survival and finding food. Bird behaviours change significantly through the seasons. You may witness birds, fighting, defending their territory, nest building, preening, singing or foraging for worms on the grass.Make sure you wash your bird feeders regularly and also change the water in your bird bath. Birds will go elsewhere if there is not clean, fresh water supply. Don’t allow uneaten bird food to build up around your feeder.

If you struggle to see the birds in your garden because it is too big or they don’t come close enough then you might want to invest in a pair of binoculars. This will help you to see birds that are further away and make it easier to identify them. Some birds are quite used to being around humans whereas others can be more fearful and keep their distance. If you want to contribute to the conservation of garden birds there are many ways you can help. If you are able to record information about the birds in your garden in a systematic manner then you could help bird researchers. You can also help by joining the where you will get lots of tips and advice on birdwatching. You can take part in a project they are doing by simply spending an hour over the weekend of the 24th/25th January counting the birds in your garden. Here are we sell a wide range of products for birds and people who enjoy birdwatching. Click here to see our range of products bird food.

Most Colourful Birds In Britain

Britain is home to some very colourful birds. Some aren’t that easy to spot and others are a little more common. When you see a colourful bird it really does catch your attention and you can spend a few moments appreciating the beauty of these stunning creatures. Birdwatchers will know which colourful birds to watch out for, but if you are new to the world of birds then here are a few of the most brightly coloured birds in Britain to keep an eye out for.

Goldfinch

Goldfinches have very distinctive colourful markings. They have an impressive bright red face that makes them really stand out. They also have yellow patches on their wings and black and white markings. You can catch a glimpse of a goldfinch in your gardens and they particularly love bushes, parks, heathland and trees.

Woodpecker

There are a few different types of woodpecker, each with different colours and markings. Most woodpeckers have bold markings and bright colours but perhaps the most colourful is the green woodpecker. They are defined by their green feathers on the upper parts of their bodies, their red heads and yellow feathering on their back.

Kingfisher

When it comes to colouring, the Kingfisher doesn’t fail to impressive. Once you can recognise their colouring you will definitely notice them if you are lucky enough to spot one. Kingfishers are normally seen around ponds and rivers because they are always in search of fish. They have very noticeable bright orange chests and a vibrant blue neck and back.

Blue Tit

Blue tits are one of Britain’s best loved birds, and are easy to spot in British gardens. They have pretty blue caps and yellow chests. Young Blue Tits have yellow instead of white cheeks when they come out in the spring time. You can spot Blue tits in parks, gardens and woodland.

Bullfinch

Male Bullfinches have colourful red chests, grey backs and black wing tips, tales and faces. They are absolutely stunning birds that you will be lucky to catch a glimpse of as they are fairly rare.

Why Have Our Wild Bird Populations Declined?

From time to time you will hear frightening statistics regarding the decline in wild bird populations. Whilst some species continue to thrive others, including the thrush, skylark and house sparrow, appear to be seriously threatened. The decline has been a gradual process but what exactly is behind the problem?

Agricultural Practices

The majority of species which in decline are farmland birds. Research indicates that it is changes in agricultural practices which are the root cause of the problem.

The drive for increased efficiency in farming has led to the cutting back of hedgerows in order to create larger fields. These fields are ploughed closer to their edges to create a larger area to plant. Damp and water logged areas have been progressively dried out to deliver yet more land. Farmers have been feeling the pinch and so have needed to increase production and have used every means at their disposal.

Sewing the Seeds

In addition, sewing practices have changed. There has been a move to sewing cereals in the autumn rather than in the spring. As soon as a crop has been harvested, the next one is sewn. There is no longer an opportunity for the land to lie fallow. Many farms now specialise in either livestock or crop production and this has impacted habitat diversity. The increased use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides has also proved problematic.

Improved Storage

Grain and animal feed storage has become progressively more efficient and so wild birds do not have access to the material. Wild birds have been excluded from cattle feeding stations and old farm buildings have been replaced with more modern facilities and these can exclude nesting birds.

All of this has meant that we have seen dramatic declines in the populations of tree sparrows, corn buntings, willow tits, woodcocks and starlings. Song thrush, bullfinch and skylark populations have fallen by over 50%. On a happier note, bird populations do fluctuate naturally and so the decline in certain species may appear to be more serious than it actually is. Some species are already showing signs of a recovery.

Urban and Suburban Birds

The changes in agricultural practices also impact urban and suburban bird populations. These are generally an overspill from more rural areas. However, the decline in house sparrow populations is the exception. This bird’s population in urban areas should be self-sustaining and should not be impacted by changes to the countryside. But numbers have fallen nonetheless. The causes of this issue have yet to be identified.

It has never been more important to do everything we can to support our wild birds. Conservationists are working hard to influence agricultural practices and to put pressure on government to institute policies which will help the situation. Some habitats are being restored but more must be done. We can all help by creating good habitats for wild birds in our gardens and providing the food and water that they need. We don’t want our beautiful birds to become merely memories.

Feeding Wild Birds

Many people get great pleasure in feeding wild birds. It becomes a daily pleasure to know that you are inviting these wild species into your domestic environment and they feel welcomed. If prepared and fed correctly, wild birds can become as enjoyable as a domestic pet, only with less commitment. Thanks to the array of bird feeders available today, you do not need to have a vast, open garden or lots of trees to attract these beautiful creatures. Before deciding what type of feeder to buy, you need to determine what type of food you are going to feed them. There are various categories of food available, but most revolve around seeds, nuts and live food.

Seeds are the most conventional form of food and are used for attracting the more common garden bird such as Sparrow, Pigeon, Woodpeckers and Tits. Sunflower seeds in particular are popular with most types of bird. Birds such as Blackbirds and Doves will also enjoy other types of corn based seeds. You can also try peanuts for bigger birds. mealworms, and suet pellets are also great for attracting a wider variety of bird, and if you are interested in bird spotting or watching this is a great way to draw them.

The main problem people encounter when placing bird feeders in their gardens is the other animals they attract. Squirrels in particular love bird food, specifically suet and mealworms, so if you live in an area where Squirrels are common it is recommended to purchase a bird feeder specifically designed not to allow Squirrels to get in. Other domestic animals such as cats can also get to the food if it is not placed high enough or is secure. It is also vital to ensure that birds have a constant supply of fresh water, to both drink and bathe in. Ensure both water and food are kept fresh and you are guaranteed to attract some great species of birds who will become regular visitors to your garden.

When should you feed wild birds?

Feeding birds during the winter is really the most beneficial time to do so. As food shortages are more likely to occur. However feeding birds throughout the year is even better, as food shortages can still occur during the summer. Furthermore if the birds can gain weight during the summer, then they are more likely to survive during the colder autumn and winter months.

Spring and summer months

During the summer months, a wild bird's diet will be slightly different than during the colder winter months. This is especially true whilst the birds are moulting. They usually require a diet higher in protein. It has been suggested that you should stay away from providing peanuts, household fat waste, Fat Balls and bread during this period, given that these can pose potential problems if adult birds feed them to their young. (However having said that, some people still feed peanuts and fat balls at this time without any problems at all.) If you feel you want to put out peanuts at this time, then it is best to put them in a suitable metal/plastic mesh peanut feeder designed for that purpose. This ensures that large pieces of peanuts don't pose a choking hazard to the birds.

Short term food shortages can happen at virtually any time of the year, and when this happens during the summer breeding season, supplying additional food in your garden can make a huge difference to the survival of the young birds. Wild birds time their breeding activity to coincide with the accessibility of natural food products, such as caterpillars, earthworms etc. However it has been noted that when the weather turns cold or wet during spring or summer (this is Britain after all!!), acute shortage of insect food can arise, and if the weather is unusually dry, then earthworms will not be able to penetrate the hard soil at the surface. This is when the supply of comes in handy. Products to feed during the warmer spring, summer months include: Oatmeal, Groats, raisins/sultanas, mealworms and seed mixtures are all great foods to feed during this time. Some fruits such as apples, grapes and banana's can be a welcome addition too.

Autumn and winter months

During the autumn and winter months, it is advisable to put out food and water on a regular basis. However during really bad weather, wild birds are best fed twice daily. Once in the morning and then again in the afternoon/evening. During this period, wild birds want high energy or foods high in fat, such as peanuts, Sunflower Hearts or Suet Treats. It is best to always establish a regular routine, so that the birds will become accustomed to the meal times. Furthermore it is very important that you never leave uneaten foods to build up around the feeders or trays. Products to feed during colder months: Peanuts, Sunflower hearts, black sunflower, fat balls, safflower seed, niger seed, suet treats/cakes, high calorie seed mixtures.

What Not to feed Garden Birds

Many garden birds will struggle to find enough food this winter. You can help them to survive by providing good sources of nutrition. You will find the that you need right here at Little Peckers. You might also wish to offer your feathered visitors some leftovers. But take care to choose the right foods. There will probably be plenty of nutritious treats hanging around your kitchen. Many of these are suitable for the birds but there are some foods which will do your visitors more harm than good. Here are the foods which should stay in your cupboard or fridge!

Salt

Garden birds are unable to metabolise salt. It is toxic to them in high quantities and can impact their nervous system. You should never offer the bird foods which contain salt. This includes cured and processed meats. Even bacon rind can be high in salt. However, the fat from unsalted meat is a great choice and the birds will love it.

Polyunsaturated Fats

Whilst lard and other meat fats are good sources of energy for wild birds, polyunsaturated fats like margarine and vegetable oil will not give them the energy that they need.

Cooking Fat

You will often be left with some cooking fat in the pan after a Sunday roast but it is best not to give this to the birds. Meat juices will have run into this fat making it sticky and this gloopy material is bad for feathers. In addition, bacteria prosper in cooking fat and so it should be consigned to the bin.

Bread

Bread isn’t harmful to birds but it does not contain the protein and fat that they need. As bread’s nutritional value is so low, it should only be offered in small quantities. An excess of bread will fill empty stomachs making the birds think that they have eaten enough. The birds will then suffer from vitamin deficiencies or even starve. If you have some dry bread to leave out, moisten it in water first to make it more digestible. Uncooked Split Peas, Dried Beans, Rice and Lentils are extremely dry and can only be digested by larger species. However, cooked rice is a good option and will be enjoyed by many birds. Avoid poor quality bird mixes as these can feature split peas and lentils.

Cat and Dog Food

Small birds will not be able to digest cat or dog biscuits but wet foods are a nutritious choice. If your pooch or moggy has turned its nose up at their meal then the garden birds could be in for a feast.

Porridge Oats

Don’t feed cooked porridge oats to the birds and this food will quickly harden around beaks and prevent the birds from eating and drinking. Uncooked oats are fine as are most other breakfast cereals but these should be fed in moderation as they will contain salt.

Milk

You may have seen many endearing pictures of blue tits pecking at milk bottles but you should never offer milk to any bird. A bird's gut is not designed to digest it and so drinking milk can result in serious stomach upsets.

Stale Food

>Whatever food you offer to the garden birds, make sure that it is fresh. Stale and mouldy food certainly won’t help the birds and could lead to serious health issues.

Bird feeding has accelerated evolution

Feeding garden birds has become one of the most popular pastimes in the UK. Scientists at and have now revealed that our love of birds is really making a difference and in ways you might not have imagined. We are impacting avian behaviour and ecology but also the evolution of many species.

Longer beaks snaffle more food

Evolution generally progresses slowly with changes appearing over the course of thousands or millions of years. But with our garden birds, changes have occurred over just a few decades. Their bills have grown noticeably longer as birds adapt to an easy source of food – bird feeders. Birds with longer beaks can snaffle more food than their shorter-billed rivals and boast a better survival rate. They then pass the useful attribute to their offspring.

Changes to migration routes

Avian behaviour is changing dramatically too. For instance, the used to migrate from central Europe to Spain and North Africa but now heads to the UK instead due to the bountiful supply of food. There are rich pickings to be had in urban gardens and it hasn’t taken long for birds to discover this.

From scraps to banquets

We have been feeding scraps to birds for centuries in the UK but it wasn’t until the 1980s that an impressive array of foods and feeders became available. The nutritious food began to attract a greater number of species to gardens. Where no more than a dozen different birds would have been seen, you could now spot over 100 species courtesy of the spectacular bird buffets.

Springwatch, mealworms and feeding throughout the year

In 2005, the TV programme showcased garden birds and inspired even more people to invest in bird feeders. During one episode, Bill Oddie suggested providing mealworms for adult birds who needed to feed their chicks. This sparked a nationwide shortage of mealworms! The series also demonstrated that we should feed birds throughout the year.

Disrupting the ecosystem

Bird feeders can have the unfortunate side effect of benefitting larger and more aggressive species to the detriment of other birds who would have naturally inhabited our gardens. This issue can be tackled by ensuring that your garden is planted with shrubs which provide natural sources of food. Berry bushes give birds choices and could mean that all species find their fair share of goodies without having to compete against each other.

The benefits of feeding birds

There are other fabulous benefits of feeding birds which are often overlooked. Feeders help people to connect with nature and to value our native species. Disabled and elderly people who can’t visit the countryside are able to continue connecting with nature on their own doorsteps. Who would have thought it? Feeding birds has inspired significant changes in behaviour and has accelerated evolution. In helping birds to survive, we have changed their lives in unexpected ways while gaining a great amount of enjoyment ourselves. It is vital that we continue to explore the impact of bird feeding so that we do what is best for the birds. We are meddling in nature for the right reasons but should guard against the unintended consequences of our actions which disrupt the ecosystem.

When Less is More for Garden Birds and Wildlife

With autumn is on the way, many gardeners launch on a major tidy up mission in order to keep their properties neat and organised over the ensuing months. But neat and tidy isn’t what the local wildlife will be looking for! The birds, animals and insects that visit gardens throughout the autumn and winter months would prefer a less-ordered approach from their hosts. Here’s our guide to creating a nature-friendly garden which will attract more wildlife and help a variety of creatures to prosper.

Don’t Manicure Your Garden

You might be feeling the urge to manicure your garden but it is important to resist the temptation to cut everything back in the autumn. Don’t clear away fallen leaves and decaying plants. The leaves create a comfortable layer for mammals and insects to use as shelter when temperatures drop. Hollow stems, seed pods and window boxes can also be safe havens for insects when the frost begins to bite. Any leaves that you do wish to clear for aesthetic or safety reasons can be swept up and piled away in a corner where hedgehogs can use them as a cosy home. Any old wood and cut branches can also be piled up as the rotting wood encourages fungi & other detritivores which provide food for wildlife.

Leave Ivy Alone!

Avoid cutting any ivy back as this is a great plant for wildlife year-round. Most nectar-rich plants start to die off in the Autumn but the flowers of ivy are just starting to come into bloom, providing a great source of food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. The evergreen leaves of ivy offer valuable shelter for garden birds and insects when much of the available cover is dying out. Better still, ivy’s winter berries deliver calorie-rich nutrition for birds when they are struggling to maintain their body temperatures and require extra energy. If your garden doesn’t feature any ivy, plant some!

The Exodus

Many garden birds appear to vanish in September and October and you might be left wondering where your feathered friends have gone. This is normal behaviour as the birds travel farther afield in search of berry-rich hedgerows. Whilst berry stocks are bountiful, many birds will abandon your feeders and turn to nature’s pantry instead. In spite of the exodus, keep feeders stocked and provide plenty of clean water because the birds will be back and may rely on you to keep them going in the winter.

Do Less and Plan More

In the colder months, don’t feel guilty about leaving your garden less manicured. What you see as mess might well represent salvation for many of the creatures which visit. You could also take the time over the winter to plan a wildlife friendly garden which is planted to feature more berries and sources of nectar. A less ordered, informal garden will encourage greater natural diversity and could mean that you have to do less work. It’s a win, win situation!

10 Fascinating Facts About British Wild Birds

There are some beautiful and fascinating birds in Britain , some of which you might be able to spot in your garden. If you love birds and want to learn about wild birds in Britain then here are some interesting facts to get you started. This is part 1, we will bring you part 2 with more interesting facts about British birds next month.

1. British Robins Aren’t As Shy As You Think

This traditional British bird has become used to being around humans, so much so that it’s common for Robins to take worms out of your hand. In other countries Robins are very shy, hiding in deep woodland, but in Britain they are bolder.

2. Bird Eggs Need To Be Kept Warm

All bird lovers will know this one. Birds are actually warm blooded meaning their eggs need to be kept warm and incubated. If they do not keep warm then the embryos will die.

3. Feathers Aren’t Just For Flight

Feathers have more uses than just flight. As well as facilitating flight they are also used for display, camouflage, and warmth. Feathers are unique to birds, if an animal has feathers then it has to be a bird. This is their defining characteristic.

4. Woodpeckers Can Peck 20 times Every Second

This fascinating bird can peck at an astonishing speed, the average is around 20 times per second. If you are lucky enough to spot one then take a look at how quickly they drill into the trees.

5. Feeding Birds In Spring Helps Their Young

In spring adult birds are searching for insects for their young. Consider putting some bird seeds in your garden to help them out.

6. Robins Are Very Territorial

Robins spend most of their life defending their territory. They are fiercely territorial and only relax when the weather is very cold and they need to focus on getting food. Ten per cent of older robins die defending their territory.

7. Blue Tits Are Sneaky & Intelligent

Blue tits are very intelligent birds and can work out very clever ways to get to food. When milk bottles were delivered to people’s doors they learned to get to the milk by pecking at the foil at the top of the bottles.

8. Put Up Your Nestboxes In The Autumn

If you put your bird box up in the autumn then it will have some time to weather and become more homely for the birds. The birds then can take the time to look for the perfect nest before breeding season starts.

9. Blackbirds Love To Sunbathe

They love to spread their wings and bask in the sunshine, see if you can spot a sunbathing blackbird this summer.

10. Starlings Are Expert Mimics

Starlings are excellent mimics and are able to mimic a wide range of sounds such as frogs and the sounds of other birds.

Why British Birds are Increasingly Relying on Bird Houses

If you are interested in birds, you will doubtless have read many articles urging you to feature >bird houses in your garden. We have made several such calls to action here on the Little Peckers blog. But you may not be aware of the reasons why birds need our help. After all, there were birds before people had gardens so what did they do then?

Wild Birds and Urbanisation

There was a time when most of our nation was undeveloped leaving plenty of places for birds to nest. But as the human population has grown, more and more buildings have been erected in areas which were previously open countryside. Urbanisation has not only removed potential nesting sites, it has destroyed the habitats of many of the creatures on which the birds feed.

The Impact of Renovation

Until relatively recently, many species were still able to prosper because domestic architecture offered plenty of handy places for birds to nest including the eaves. There were also many run-down and dilapidated old buildings, out buildings and barns for the birds to use. But the human population has continued to grow and the result has been a huge demand for housing. Many old buildings have been renovated to provide homes for people and this has reduced the number of potential sites for the birds.

To make matters worse, people have become progressively more house proud and have tidied up their homes and outbuildings, removing valuable nesting sites in the process. Modern homes are not constructed in a way which helps the birds in any way and many barns and agricultural buildings have been converted into houses. Our gardens have become increasingly more formal and manicured which hasn’t helped the birds either.

A Greater Need for Nesting Boxes

Wild birds now need nesting boxes more than ever. The British Trust for Ornithology has confirmed that natural nesting sites for birds are on the decline across the country. The nooks in old buildings have largely disappeared. Birds like the common swift have long been relying on manmade structures but modern designs and renovations have seen sightings of these birds decline by 47% since 1995.

Two Bird Houses for Every Home

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if very home featured at least two bird houses? This would make such a huge difference to the birds and they can be further helped by the inclusion of bird feeders. Do you have nesting boxes around your house and garden? If not, then what are you waiting for? You could play a significant role in helping bird populations to recover whilst enjoying many visits from a variety of interesting feathered friends.

Attracting Birds To Your Garden In Spring/Summer

Birds can transform your garden with colour, interest, song and photographic opportunity. They are an endless source of joy and on top of that you can do your bit to ensure that endangered species enjoy protection. All this can be done regardless of budget. You can purchase a virtual forest or just make a few seeds available. As long as you do something the award always outstrips the investment. Offer a little food, water, somewhere to shelter, something to make life more comfortable and maybe an environment to make them think they are back home. What should be borne in mind as well is that the natural habitat of many birds has been, and is being, eroded to an ever increasing degree and this means that their natural source of food is also becoming much scarcer. Gardens are a massive resource when it comes to supporting birds and for a few pence you can do your bit to balance the harm we have done to them.

When people think of ways to attract a bird to a garden the first thought that goes through their mind is often a bird tables or feeder, and for good reason. A well thought out bird table will protect both the bird and the food you put out and give reassurance to both parties that next-door's cat will not interfere. This will encourage birds to eat at the table rather than take the food elsewhere for consumption. Whilst some have an engaging bravery, most garden birds are generally a little on the shy side so it can be beneficial if you place the bird table a little distance from those areas of the garden that are used the most by people. Don't be upset that you can't see the birds at this stage as they will gradually become used to you and you can, over time, move the table nearer to the house or where you want to sit to observe them.

A bird table enables you to encourage specific breeds of bird and yet at the same time discourage the more feral kind such as starlings and pigeons. If there is a specific type of bird in your area which is becoming a nuisance, then a brief chat at your local garden centre will show you what you can do to stop them overpowering those ones you wish to see. Very little care is needed with regards to a bird table but you should be aware that bird droppings can be toxic, especially to children, so place the bird table on a surface which can be cleaned and disinfected easily. Food should be removed once it is no longer fresh and the table also cleaned. A source of clean water is an essential for birds both to drink and occasionally bathe in, the latter being essential for their good health. Again regular cleaning is required and birds will go elsewhere if the water is not fresh.

Food, such as peanuts or fat balls which both have very high calorific values, can be offered during the colder months and visits from birds, whilst less numerous normally, add a splash of interest and colour during a drab time of the year. Offer nesting boxes for the type of bird you wish to attract together with nesting material. A brood will result in many visits to your table or feeder by the harried parents.

Try and stop cats using your garden as a shortcut as nothing is more likely to make a bird go elsewhere than a cat sitting on a garage roof licking its lips. The table or feeder should be placed away from buildings or overhanging trees and the ground should be clear of cover for predators. Birds are a wonderful addition to any garden. Not only that, you are doing a bit towards preservation of a type and perhaps even reversing a decline. All this you can get for very little investment. Any garden is big enough, indeed a balcony can be used with window boxes turned over to bird feeders. Word soon gets around, and in no time your garden could become the bird equivalent of Piccadilly Circus.

Birds You Will See In Your Garden

What type of birds you see in your garden will depend on a number of variables:

Whether you are urban or rural,

Your location in the country

What steps you have taken to encourage specific kinds of birds

What type of you provide

The top 10 birds found in domestic gardens are listed in the They include the Collard Dove, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Wood Pigeon, Great Tit, Starling, Robin, and Blackbird. Not all are welcome of course and some people rather resent the fact that Starlings tend to arrive mob handed.

People who put out and do so to encourage the prettier types of bird such as the tits, the dramatic mix of colours being especially attractive. This goes also for the Goldfinch and Chaffinch, both of which generate excitement when they are spotted. And who could fail to be attracted by the cheeky bravery of a Robin? Whilst the humble House Sparrow cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as gaudy, to ignore this cheerful bird is to miss its fascinating domestic life. Unfortunately, the House Sparrow population has dropped dramatically over the last 30 years or so, with three quarters disappearing in the UK, most notably in England. It would be sad indeed to lose the pretentiousness of the male, with its self-important stance and chirpy cheep.

One of the favourite British garden birds is the Blackbird, the name is slightly misleading as the female is normally brown with streaks on the breast. Males have an orange yellow beak and distinctive eye ring to make them stand out. The most notable feature of the bird is its beautiful mellifluous song.

Rather sadly the gardener's friend, the Song Thrush , with its taste for snails, has been in serious decline of late and it is on the RSPB red list meaning that it is endangered. As the name implies, its song is remarkable and is becoming sorely missed.

Depending on the size and make up of your garden, it is increasingly common for Great Spotted Woodpeckers to occasionally make an appearance. They are not the most brave birds and the norm is that you will hear them, either their call or their rather distinctive drumming at the beginning of the mating season. Even though you will only catch the occasional glimpse they are well worth keeping an eye open for. Magpies are a frequent visitor to gardens, unfortunately often scaring away smaller birds. They may arrive in rather large flocks or you might get a breeding pair. The plumage is remarkable, mainly black-and-white from a distance with a long tail but up close, and many are confident enough to allow you to approach, they tend to sparkle. Their stubby little wings allow them to manoeuvre energetically near to the ground.

One of the most popular birds is the diminutive Wren. Despite rumours to the contrary it is not the smallest bird you're likely to find in the garden, the Goldcrest being the winner here. It is remarkably common given how infrequently it is seen. They are generally shy birds and being so small and drab coloured they are easily missed. Like the Woodpecker they are seen rather than heard. In Great Britain we are blessed with a remarkable range of birds that are likely to drop into our gardens.

Don’t Kill Your Garden Birds with Kindness

With more than half of all households in the UK now providing food for garden birds , we are clearly a nation of bird lovers. Feeding the birds helps them to survive harsh winters and enables you to see a wonderful variety of species in your own garden. But you must be careful to offer the right food and in the right way, otherwise you could kill or injure wild birds rather than help them.
Here’s the three things you shouldn’t do if you want to take care of the birds.

Don’t Present Fat Balls in Netting

Fat Balls are a wonderful source of energy for birds. These balls of fat usually feature seeds and insects and so provide a highly nutritious meal for many species. The birds love them too! But you should never present suet fat balls in the netting in which they are often supplied. The netting looks convenient to hang. However, it can end up trapping birds’ feet or beaks. This can lead to injury or even death. Fat balls are best removed from any nets and placed in a bespoke feeder or left loose on bird tables for the birds to feast on.

Be Careful with Human Food

It might seem like a great idea to feed your garden birds with your leftover scraps. But human food can be problematic for birds. Certainly, cooking fat from the roast including your Christmas turkey, is potentially dangerous. The fat mixes with meat juices during cooking and forms a runny, sticky material. This may then stick to feathers and stop them from remaining waterproof. In addition, this gloopy material is often loaded with salt, which is toxic to birds. Other foods to be avoided include desiccated coconut as this may swell once inside a bird and cause death. Cooked porridge oats or milk should not be provided as these foods may damage a bird’s gut.

Don’t Provide Too Much Food for Birds

Uneaten food will eventually turn mouldy. Some types of mould are relatively harmless but others are dangerous and could lead to respiratory infections in birds. If you find food that has been lying around for so long that it has turned mouldy, you are probably putting out too much for the birds to eat. Try moderating your portions and keep an eye on what happens!

You should always remove any stale food quickly as bacteria will soon start to breed and parasites will be attracted to the rotting material. Keep your bird tables, feeders and surrounding areas clean at all times. Wash feeders regularly, ideally using a 5% disinfectant solution. Move any feeding stations to a new area every month to prevent the droppings accumulating beneath them. A few simple measures will ensure that you help the birds rather than injure or poison them. The visitors to your garden may be depending on you for their health and survival and it is easy to make a big difference to their lives.

Garden Birds Evolve Longer Beaks to Use Garden Feeders

Between 1970 and the present day the beaks of British birds have grown longer. Scientists have been researching why the birds have evolved so quickly and whether the phenomenon is confined to Britain.

Great Tits

Scientists looked at birds in Britain and the Netherlands. DNA was taken from more than 3,000 great tits in Wytham Woods together with Oosterhout and Veluwe in the Netherlands. The genetic differences between birds from the two countries were explored. It transpired that there were changes in the gene sequences of British birds relating to face shape.

Genetic Variants

Researchers found that birds with genetic variants for longer beaks were more frequent visitors to feeders than birds without the genetic variation. The birds with longer beaks were discovered to be more successful breeders than the other birds in the UK but this was not the case in the Netherlands. The scientists are, therefore, certain that British birds have evolved longer beaks due to the prevalence of garden in this country. The beaks of the British birds were 0.3mm longer than those of their European counterparts. This doesn’t sound like a huge difference but even a small advantage could improve a bird’s chances of survival. If birds with longer beaks have a greater rate of survival it is these birds which live long enough to breed and pass on their genes.

More Birds are Visiting Feeders

Although the recent research involved studying only great tits it is likely that other species have experienced similar changes. Back in the 1980s only 18 species of bird had been recorded feeding on seed in gardens but that number has now risen to 130. Farmland birds which have suffered habitat loss are increasingly looking for food in urban gardens during the winter months. "Between the 1970s and the present day, beak length has got longer among the British birds. That’s a really short time period in which to see this sort of difference emerging," said study co-author Jon Slate, professor in the department of animal and plant sciences at the University of Sheffield. The increase in beak length is the result of genetic changes caused by natural selection. The findings mirror those of Charles Darwin whose studied finches and proposed that that they evolved physical traits which helped them to adapt to different environments in the wild. The research was carried out by scientists from the Universities of Oxford, Sheffield and East Anglia in conjunction with experts from the Netherlands.

British Bird Feeders

Householders in the UK spend around twice as much on feeders and bird food than people in mainland Europe and have been doing so for many years. It isn’t yet possible to prove that feeders are behind the increase in beak length but feeders are the likely explanation. This is an extraordinary example of rapid evolution and it is amazing to think that garden bird feeders could have altered the course of evolution in such a short space of time.

Symbolic British Birds

Want to know a bit more about some of the UK’s most iconic birds? There are plenty of birds to choose from, but these are probably some of the best known birds that are symbolic in Britain. You are probably aware of some of these birds but do you know much about them and what they stand for? It’s interesting to learn about these impressive creatures and their significance to the British people. Here are 6 symbolic British birds.

Swan

Swans are a protected species here in the UK, all unmarked swans technically belong to the queen and should not be touched. They are probably one of the most recognisable birds in the UK. Swans are graceful, elegant creatures that can be found all across the UK in marshes, sheltered coasts, shallow lakes and slow rivers. Although swans appear quite relaxed and calm, if their young are threatened they can be extremely aggressive. There are three types of swan in the UK, the Mute Swan, the Berwick’s Swan and the Whooper swan. The most well known is probably the Mute swan. Swans are sometimes seen as a symbol of fidelity and love because they often mate for life and have close relationships. They can also symbolise a transformation and growth because of the ‘Ugly Duckling’ story.

Robin

The Robin is a wonderful little bird that touches the hearts of British people because of it’s connections with Christmas. It’s also a very common garden bird, robins are actually quite tame. Although they are very territorial birds with each other and will defend their territory fearlessly. The Robin can be easily identified by its distinctive red breast and brown feathers. As well as in our gardens, Robins can also be seen in headlands, woodlands and parks. You can spot Robins all year round, their favourite thing to do is forage and dig for worms.

Raven

Ravens are a symbolic bird but they tend to represent evil in films and literature. They can be quite aggressive if they feel intimidated and their large size and black feathers make them seem quite daunting. They have a wingspan of nearly a metre and can reach up to 60 centimetres in length. Ravens have also been known as ‘the vultures of the sheep country’ as they are always scavenging and looking to pick up dying animals. Legend has it that Ravens have lived in the Tower of London since the times of Henry the 8th and should they ever leave the British Kingdom will fall.

Owl

Owls have been symbolic birds for many years, developing a range of different symbolic meanings throughout history. They are probably best known as being wise because of the well known saying ‘wise old owl’. Most owls are nocturnal birds, making them iconic creatures of the night. There are several different types of owl in Britain, the Barn Owl, Little Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl and the Tawny Owl.

More British Birds Now Endangered

The latest State of the UK’s Birds report lists 67 species as being on the "red list". This means that no less than 15 species have been added to the list since the last report of its kind in 2009. Conservationists are now calling for urgent action to save these birds.

The UK’s Most Threatened Wild Birds

The disturbing statistics indicate that more than a quarter of the species native to the UK are now threatened with extinction. Eight species are considered to be at risk of global extinction: the balearic shearwater, aquatic warbler, common pochard, long-tailed duck, velvet scoter, slavonian grebe, puffin and turtle dove.

The Factors Which Impact Bird Populations

David Noble, principal ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and one of the authors of the report has expressed his concern over the findings. He has explained that several factors have contributed to the increase in the number of endangered birds. These include afforestation, farming practices, increases in the number of predators like foxes and climate change.

The State of The UK’s Birds report is produced by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the BTO and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, in partnership with the UK’s statutory nature conservation bodies. It gathers and then collates material from a variety of bird studies and bird surveys to produce an accurate picture of the status of the various avian species.

The Curlew

Conservationists are particularly worried about the curlew which is Europe’s largest wader. This bird has experienced a population decline of 64% since 1970, mainly due to habitat loss. Up to 27% of the world’s curlews are found in the UK. Research is underway to determine the exact reasons for the decline of the species.

The RSPB believe that the curlew is one of Britain’s most important bird s. You can see these wonderful creatures on estuaries in the winter and on moorland in summer. The birds boast a distinctive and dramatic long and curved beak, long legs and a memorable call.

The Good News

Thankfully the report wasn’t all doom and gloom. Some species have enjoyed a significant recovery in their numbers. The population of golden eagles is up 15% since 2003 and breeding pairs of the cirl bunting have risen from just 118 in 1989 to over 1000. After years of effort on the part of conservationists, the red kite, once severely threatened, has now returned to the green list and can be seen across the UK.

These birds have been able to prosper once more as they have been protected egg collectors and from attacks by people who run grouse moors . The bittern and the nightjar have been moved from the red list to the amber list and 22 species have been moved from the amber list to the green list.

More work must be done to save all of our species but at least we have a good understanding of the situation and know which birds efforts must be focussed on.

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