Make a bird cafe to encourage more varieties of bird to visit your garced

Undated Handout Photo of birds feeding. See PA Feature GARDENING Bird. Picture credit should read: Nigel Blake/ WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature GARDENING Bird.

THIS weekend's Big Garden Birdwatch might get you interested in making your own 'bird cafe' to encourage more varieties of bird to your garden. Here's a step-by-step guide:

1. What you will need

Bird feeders, bird table, choice of bird seed mixtures, such as bird cake and food bars, sunflower seeds or hearts, nyjer seeds, live foods and other insect foods, lard and beef suet, cooked rice, uncooked oats. Different birds like different foods – try a range to see what works best in your garden.

2. Use quality feeders

Invest in quality feeders and roofed bird tables, which will keep food dry and stop it going off. As a good start, include: a hanging plastic feeder containing sunflower hearts for (mainly) finches, tits and sparrows; a hanging mesh feeder with peanuts for (mainly) tits; a hanging mesh feeder with fat balls for (mainly) tits and sparrows; a nyjer seed feeder for goldfinches; a ground feeder or bird table with an oat/fruit/fatty nibbles mix for robins and blackbirds.

3. Pick a good spot

Place the feeders high enough so they are out of reach of ground predators like cats. They should be a couple of metres away from thick cover like bushes, so that small birds can beat a hasty retreat from aerial predators. If you don't get any visitors, try a different location.

4. Think about health and hygiene

Make sure the foods are kept in rodent-proof storage bins. Also, unhygienic feeding stations can quickly transmit diseases between birds, so clean your feeders and bird tables regularly, washing them down with a mild disinfectant and hot water, rinsing them fully and drying them out before filling them back up with food. Clear up under your feeders to avoid rodent problems.

5. Deal with unwanted visitors

Rats, mice, squirrels, pigeons, and members of the crow family can wolf down what was meant for smaller birds. The best solutions are feeders with 'guardian' cages around the outside – small birds can slip through the gaps, but larger creatures are excluded. Add weight-activated feeders, which close off the feeding ports when something heavy like a pigeon or squirrel sits on them.

:: Big Garden Birdwatch, January 27-29; more at

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