British garden birds have had mixed fortunes. Many species that regularly visit gardens to take advantage of the food we provide are doing well. However, there are serious concerns about some of our most familiar and best loved species. Of particular concern are house sparrows and starlings.
Both house sparrows and starlings are still common in gardens generally and regularly feature at the top of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey. However, some people are starting to notice the number of these birds visiting their gardens has dropped and in some cases, they have disappeared altogether. Surveys have shown that the population of both species has declined by over 50% in the last 25 year, making them a conservation priority.
While these two species are struggling, the population of members of the tit family, robins, blackbirds, woodpigeons and collared doves are increasing. These birds all use gardens on a regular basis and are becoming a very common sight.
The end of the summer signals the end of the breeding season for most birds. As their nesting duties draw to a close, birds will start to moult their feathers. New feather push out the old, worn ones. This uses a lot of energy and can affect their agility while flying so some birds stay hidden for periods during the late summer and autumn months. This, combined with the often abundant natural food at this time of year means birds may not be seen in gardens as regularly.
However, their absence is usually short lived and as winter approaches and natural food becomes harder to find then they usually start returning to gardens. Fruits and berries can be particularly valuable in the autumn with yew, sloes, haws and dogwood berries amongst the most popular.
How to provide for the birds in your garden
House sparrows are social birds that are usually seen in flocks. They usually nest in holes in buildings and nestboxes but will use dense cover such as ivy too. They need insects in summer to feed their young so mealworms can be a great food to put out while in winter, seeds become more important.
Starlings have a very varied diet. They will feed primarily on invertebrates in the soil so short grassy areas are valuable but they will also take a range of seeds and fruit such as yew berries or apples.
Arguably Britain’s best-loved bird. Robins will often follow gardeners around to take advantage of the insects and worms in the disturbed soil. They will feed on mealworms, seeds, nuts and fruit. They like to nest in dense cover so ivy, or bramble can be great plants to encourage.
The song thrush’s fondness for slugs and snails makes them a popular visitor with most gardeners. They also feed on worms and berries through the autumn and winter. Dense, thorny bushes such as hawthorn can be great nest sites and provide berries to help them through the colder months.
One of the most familiar garden birds with a loud and impressive song. Blackbirds can often be seen foraging in amongst leaf litter for insects or out on the lawn digging up worms. They are fond of fruits too so planting hedges that produce berries or leaving out apples is a great way to help them.
Article courtesy of the RSPB.
For more tips on how to encourage birds to your garden, please click here.