Do you want to wake up to the delightful chirping of birds in your garden? In this article, we provide practical tips to attract birds to your garden and transform it into a true bird haven.

A bird-friendly garden is a diverse garden. Birds love a variety of plants, spaces to hide, organic materials for nest building, tasty food in the form of insects and fruits, fresh drinking water, and, of course, a good nesting box.

Bird-Friendly Planting

Ensure diverse planting, as birds thrive in such environments. So, minimize the number of tiles and maximize green spaces like grass. Create a vibrant border with plants of varying heights, allowing birds to forage for food. Mix evergreen and deciduous plants to provide winter shelter, such as hedges or ivy. Additionally, choose plants that attract insects, like the butterfly bush, which entices butterflies, bees, and bumblebees. Plants with berries or seeds are also popular among birds.

Wisteria sinensis

Bird-Friendly Climbing Plants

Climbing plants offer safe havens for birds and provide them with berries and insects. Suitable climbing plants include:

  • Wisteria sinensis, known as Chinese Wisteria, blooms with beautiful purple clusters in May and June.
  • Humulus lupulus, commonly known as hops, produces tasty hop cones in late summer.
  • Hedera helix, or ivy, not only offers perfect shelter but can also serve as a hedge alternative.
  • Pyracantha ‘Orange Charmer,’ also known as firethorn, forms a vibrant evergreen hedge with stunning blossoms and delicious red berries in summer.
  • Jasminum nudiflorum, or winter jasmine, displays lovely yellow flowers from January to March.

apple tree

Bird-Friendly Trees

Birds love perching high up in trees, where they feel safe, build nests, and find food. The following trees are popular among birds:

  • Prunus avium, the cherry tree, blossoms in spring and bears cherries in summer.
  • Prunus domestica, the plum tree, also blooms in spring and produces delightful plums.
  • Sorbus aucuparia, or mountain ash, features spring blossoms and red berries in late summer.
  • Malus, the apple tree, blooms in spring and yields apples in late summer/autumn.
  • Alnus glutinosa, the black alder, provides alder cones.

the hazel tree

Bird-Friendly Shrubs

Shrubs, being woody plants, attract birds. Some shrubs can even serve as hedges, such as the firethorn. These bird-friendly shrubs offer shelter, nesting spots, and a source of food in the form of berries and insects. Suitable shrubs include:

  • Ribes rubrum, the red currant, displays inconspicuous yellow-green flowers in spring and edible bright red berries in summer.
  • Rubus lacinatus, the blackberry bush, produces a continuous harvest of blackberries from late May to September, perfect for sunny spots.
  • Hippophae rhamnoides, or sea buckthorn, bears acidic and vitamin-rich berries in September and October.
  • Rosa rubiginosa, or sweetbriar, suitable for hedges, blooms with reddish-pink flowers from June to August. Birds love its rose hips.
  • Corylus avellana, the hazel tree, showcases elegant catkins visible even before winter, opening in late February. It produces small red flowers in spring and hazelnuts around September.
  • Taxus baccata, the yew tree, commonly used as a hedge, provides year-round shelter for birds.
  • Ribes nigrum, the blackcurrant bush, blooms early, from April to May, and bears delicious blackberries in summer. Loved by birds (and humans)!

Nesting Material for Birds

Having nesting materials is essential in a bird-friendly garden. Birds usually gather these materials in nature, such as grass blades, leaves, and twigs. You can assist by filling a wire mesh feeder with hay or even using your pet’s hair. It’s soft and warm, perfect for nest-building. Alternatively, you can purchase organic nesting materials made from natural materials like cocoa fibers and jute at a garden center.

Attract Birds to your garden with Food

Attract Birds to your garden with Food

With suitable planting, you’re already providing birds with food sources. However, offering additional feed is always welcome. During winter, hang fat balls and peanuts as an extra energy source, or place a bird feeder filled with ready-made bird food and some fruit. Remember to vary the offerings, as not all birds can hang on fat balls or feel safe on a feeder. Also, don’t forget to scatter some feed on the ground.

fresh water for birds

Provide Fresh Drinking Water

In addition to food, clean and fresh water is crucial. A shallow and wide dish serves birds well, allowing them to drink and even bathe. Regularly refresh the water, especially in hot weather. In winter, you can add sugar to prevent quick freezing. Cover the dish with wire mesh to prevent birds from bathing in the sugar water. During freezing temperatures, add crushed ice to the dish and place it in a safe, sheltered spot. House sparrows, in particular, enjoy dust bathing in dry sand, so keep your sandbox open or sprinkle sandbox sand in a sunny spot under a shrub.

Proper Nest Boxes for Birds

Numerous types of nest boxes are available on the market, but not all are equally suitable. Avoid brightly colored birdhouses, as they attract attention from cats and other predators. Opt for neutral-colored boxes, such as green, gray, or natural wood.

The ideal thickness of the nest box walls is approximately 1.5 centimeters. Very thin walls make the interior too cold, while excessively thick walls become too warm.

When purchasing a nest box, ensure it’s easy to clean. If you’ve used the box before, clean it thoroughly with hot or boiling water.

The entrance hole of a nest box should be around 3 to 5 centimeters, suitable for common garden birds in the Netherlands, such as house sparrows, blue tits, great tits, starlings, and robins.

Proper Nest Boxes for Birds

Choosing the Best Spot for Your Nest Box

Position the entrance of the nest box towards the northeast or southeast to minimize exposure to rain. Avoid hanging the box in direct sunlight, as it can become excessively hot. Ensure a clear flight path to the box, as it would be challenging for birds to reach it if obstructed by thick branches and leaves. If there are cats in the area, choose a location where cats cannot reach, such as away from trees or fences that cats can easily climb. If you still prefer hanging the box in a tree, protect it with a wire cage to prevent access by cats and other predators.