How to tempt more species of bird into your garden

Goldfinches tucking into some sunflower seed hearts

Goldfinches tucking into some sunflower seed hearts - Credit: Archant

Marcus Lawson from Birds of Poole Harbour reveals the tasty treats that will tempt more species of bird into your garden, be it big or small

There can’t be many better simple pleasures in life than sitting in the comfort of your own home watching birds in your garden. Size really doesn’t matter and even in a small courtyard garden it’s possible to attract a good selection of birds with the correct treats for our avian friends.

So what should be on the menu? Sunflower hearts are a wonderful all rounder as they are eaten by just about all the seed-eating species of bird. If possible avoid mixtures containing cereals as most small birds won’t eat these resulting in food being left thus creating a mess. Also larger birds such as woodpigeon will then take over the feeding area discouraging other birds from visiting.

Nyger seed, though a bit more expensive, is a favourite food for goldfinches, it can also bring in other finches such as siskin or lesser redpoll. A special feeder is needed for this fine black seed and don’t be too disappointed if no birds appear for a while as this is often the case. However, it’s worth the effort if some of these delightful creatures do decide to take advantage of your hospitality.

Whilst peanuts are always a popular choice to put out for the birds some varieties are high in a natural toxin that can be poisonous to birds and will kill them, so always ensure that the peanuts are bought from a reputable supplier. The best type of feeder for peanuts is a mesh one which won’t allow the birds to take away whole nuts which they could then choke on.

Suet and fat balls are a wonderful source of energy for birds especially in the colder winter months. If they are provided in a nylon mesh bag ensure this is removed before putting them out as birds can get trapped in them.

Windfall or overripe apples are a great way to attract thrushes into your garden in the winter as well as blackcap, a type of warbler that now overwinters in the UK in increasing numbers.

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Feeders come in many shapes, sizes and colours and several studies have shown that silver, green or black ones are preferred whereas yellow and red are least visited. It is best to avoid plastic feeders if grey squirrels are in the area as they will quickly chew their way though them.

Regular cleaning of your feeders is really important as this will help stop the spread of diseases such as Trichomonosis that is hitting greenfinch numbers particularly hard.

One of the easiest ways to attract birds into your garden is by putting out water for them. This doesn’t have to be anything especially fancy as long as the birds can bathe in it and, during the hottest and coldest periods, provide them with fluid which they may otherwise struggle to find elsewhere.

During half-term why not encourage your children or grandchildren to make their own fat balls for the birds? Some supervision is needed as it involves heating lard to then mix with seeds or dried fruit. A quick search on the internet will provide all the information you need to create these tasty energy treats.

Finally, if you haven’t got a garden you don’t need to miss out – we have just set up a live feeder cam at Holton Lee which can be viewed by going to and click on Holton Lee from the list. Then you can sit back and enjoy the birds.

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