Garden birds need a helping hand

The unusually dry September this year has led to problems for garden birds when it comes to finding food, believes the RSPB.


The mild autumn has led to parched, hard earth, with worms and other grubs being forced further underground, out of reach of most bird species. 

Song thrushes are already experiencing a drop in their numbers, falling 49% between 1990 and 2007, and are now a Red List species. They depend on slugs and snails as a major food source, and now, song thrushes in the drier East of England are suffering.

Song Thrush worm

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Richard Bashford, manager of the RSPB’s Feed The Birds Day, which takes place this weekend, said: ‘Simply hanging out a feeder or splitting over-ripe apples on your lawn will have the visiting wildlife thanking you.

‘That’s especially true in years like this, when some natural food sources run scarce. At times like this, our gardens become more important for both resident and visiting birds.’

Chris Packham, BBC Autumnwatch presenter, added: ‘The way birds will just pile into your garden looking for food tells you how important it is to them. It makes me feel good about myself, knowing I could be helping a bird survive the winter and go on to raise chicks next year.’

The RSPB has produced five top tips for attracting wildlife to your garden:
• Create a water feature, such as a pond or bog garden. Much wildlife relies on a regular supply of fresh water


• Make a log pile. It will be the ideal place for insects, fungi, mosses and lichens
• Plant native plants such as hawthorn, ivy and honeysuckle. They will provide berries in the winter for adult birds and insects for young birds in spring


• Buy or build an insect home. Insects that spend the winter in these will be a valuable food source for young birds in spring

house sparrow nest box

• Give wildlife a home. Nest boxes for birds such as house sparrows should be put up now, while winter hibernation places for hedgehogs, and roosting boxes for bats will all create valuable space for nature

The RSPB’s top five bird foods are:
• Calorie-rich seeds, such as nyger, will be first choice for goldfinches

nyjer seed

• Mixed seed, including sunflower seeds, will help house sparrows and chaffinches
Long-tailed tits, blue tits and great tits are partial to peanuts
• Fruit is best for blackbirds and thrushes

grated cheese

• Even putting out kitchen scraps such as grated cheese can help wrens
• Good insect-attracting plants include goat willow, dog rose, honeysuckle and ivy

Learn more about Feed The Birds Day events and activities

Get more information about the Homes for Wildlife scheme

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