The lowdown on autumn gardening with birds in mind

Rowan berries are a good food source for birds

Rowan berries are valuable food for birds

Most people like to see birds in their gardens. They are attractive and entertaining, and do a useful job eating garden pests. If you would like to see more birds in your garden, here are a few ideas for things you could do in autumn to attract them.

Bird feeders are a popular way to attract birds and even those without a garden can usually find room for one: some models can even be attached to a windowpane. Birdfeeders can be installed immediately and provide a useful supplement to a bird’s diet, particularly during the colder months when there is less food available. Try to set up feeders out of reach of cats and near a perch for the birds to use as a look-out for predators.

A birdbath or other water source is also useful to birds, particularly during hot dry summers and freezing winters. Try to defrost regularly during freezing weather and top up regularly. It is important to remember to keep feeders and birdbaths clean as they can become a source of disease, which could harm the birds we are trying to help. The RSPB has useful advice on its website about this, and it is worth reading as the same diseases can potentially harm us.

If you have room, you could also grow plants for seed-eating birds. Leave the seed heads un-pruned over the winter to allow birds to find their own food. Sunflowers are popular and their seeds are enjoyed by many types of bird. Other plants that birds like to feed from include teasel (Dipsacus fullonum), globe thistle (Echinops ritro) and knapweed (Centaurea). Some of the grasses, such as Miscanthus sinensis and Panicum virgatum produce fluffy seed heads that will look attractive for most of the winter and provide food for birds.

Those with a larger garden can attract birds by planting berry-bearing shrubs and trees, providing them with food during autumn and winter. Autumn is an excellent time for planting new shrubs and trees, while the air is cooling but the soil is still warm. Some good types to try are cotoneaster, hawthorn, viburnum, Himalayan honeysuckle (Leycesteria formosa), holly, rowan and pyracantha. Some climbing plants also produce berries, such as honeysuckle, ivy (Hedera helix) and Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus).

Trees, shrubs and dense climbers also provide nesting and roosting sites for birds. Some birds prefer an enclosed nest site and bird boxes can provide a good artificial alternative for birds such as blue tits. It is even possible to buy bird boxes in groups for sparrows who like to live close to their neighbours. If you have room for a bird box, autumn is a good time to install it, as it gives the birds time to accept it into their territory before nesting time in the spring. It may even be used for roosting during cold winter nights.

Disclaimer: The information given in this blog is very general and results can be affected by many kinds of local conditions, such as weather, soil, aspect, etc. The author therefore does not accept responsibility for any loss or failure as a result of following any suggestions given.

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