Birdwatch Ireland’s top 10 tips for a bird-friendly garden
1. Different nest-boxes suit different birds, and the exact size and design of the opening is surprisingly crucial. For example, blue tits will only use a hole-fronted nesting box with an opening of 27mm to 32mm, while a pied wagtail will use an open-fronted box with an opening of 60mm. All nesting boxes sold by Birdwatch Ireland take this into careful consideration (for details, check out their excellent online shop, birdwatchireland.ie).
2. Siting is critical. For example, blue tits will happily use a nest box that’s fastened to a bare wall but robins and blackbirds won’t, preferring a shadier, leafier, more secluded site, amid deep cover.
3. Height matters. Coal tits, wrens and robins all prefer a box that’s sited less than two metres above ground level, whereas blue tits, great tits and house sparrows prefer their nest boxes to be at least two metres above the ground.
4. Aspect matters. Try to situate any nesting boxes so that they’re facing northeast to southeast, away from bright sunlight and prevailing winds, and tilt them slightly forward so that rain is less likely to enter through the opening.
5. Birds are very territorial, so try to keep nest boxes at least 7-10 metres away from feeding stations – otherwise the nesting birds will spend their time fighting the feeding birds. Not good.
6. Remember to clean out nest boxes at this time of year by removing old nests and debris and scrubbing the box out with boiling water (wear gloves). Bird feeders and tables will also benefit from a good monthly scrub down.
7. To maintain a healthy environment, try to regularly move feeders to different positions within the garden.
8. Don’t be too downcast if birds don’t return to the same nesting box each year – there’s every chance that it will be used again the following year.
9. Birds don’t recognise garden boundaries. Their territory might stretch to two or three gardens, which means that in any given area of land, there’s only so many nesting boxes that will be used.
10. Feed birds all year round – not just in winter – using a good quality seed mixture, suet balls and peanuts held in wire feeders. Avoid cheap birdfeed (too high in wheat and barley grain) and processed breads (dry bread can swell in their gizzards and choke young birds).
Source: Irish Times - read more