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Help save Britain’s birds

The Ecologist

25th February, 2011

From buying a nest box to keeping Mr Bigglesworth under control; there are plenty of ways in which you can help the UK’s bird population

Birds, and songbirds in particular, are a hot topic at the moment, thanks to the Songbird Survival Trust’s controversial plans to cull a number of crows, magpies and other members of the corvid family. The cull, due to be carried out next month, has attracted opposition from a number of groups, including the RSBP, which places the blame for the declining number of British songbirds, on habitat loss and pesticide use. Others point out the Trust's links with sporting interests and question its real motives.

But whether the cull happens or not, the fact remains that many songbird species are in what looks like terminal decline. Witness the skylark, whose population has fallen by 51 percent, the tree sparrow down 89 percent and horrifyingly, the 90 percent decline in lesser redpoll numbers. While many species are farmland birds, others such as blue tits, robins and house sparrows inhabit our gardens.

So what can you do to help encourage songbirds in your garden? The Mammal Society estimates that a shocking 55 million birds per year are killed by cats, so the first thing on your list should be trying to keep your cat on a short leash, or at the very least, putting a belled collar on him in order to give local birds adequate warning. Another way to help is by providing a ready supply of seed during the winter months, preferably delivered via a high bird table, which further reduces the risk posed by cats. Gardens are also a breeding habitat for around 20 percent of birds, so providing them with a decent nesting box can also be helpful. Our favourites are by Sparrow & Finch whose bird houses and feeders come in a multitude of designs and a variety of colours, shapes and sizes. Since they’re also made from FSC certified wood and painted using Farrow & Ball’s low impact emulsion, they also make sense in terms of sustainability too. Lastly, you can get involved by supporting wildlife protection groups such as the RSPB and The Songbird Trust, whose research, campaigns and reserves are helping to preserve Britain’s birds for future generations to enjoy. For more information, tips and advice, check out the RSPB website.

Top tips for boosting birdlife in your garden

Samantha Major, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Sparrow & Finch knows a thing or two about keeping garden birds happy and healthy, so we asked her to pass on her wisdom and suggest a few ways to make your garden a more bird-friendly place

Think carefully about where to put your nest box
‘Put up a communal nest box and place it up high on the side of your house. Make sure it faces north or east, protecting the sparrow from direct sunlight and driving rain. If you put a sparrow-nesting box in your garden, make sure you place it away from any feeders and where a direct flight path is permitted.’
 
Bird feeders: the more, the merrier
‘Cater for even the shyest species by spreading your feeders around the garden. Sparrow and Finch’s stick ‘Bullrush birdfeeder’ can be positioned in your vegetated garden areas to attract less dominant bird species like the blue tit, long-tailed tit, wren and nuthatch.’
 
Feed your birds with a variety of food
‘This will increase the diversity of birds visiting your back yard.’
 
Put up several nest boxes in a number of different locations
‘This will allow your birds to choose the home that suits them best and which they can use as a safe haven. Keep nest boxes out of direct sunlight, away from predators and away from bird feeders to give your birds a stress-free home.’



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