One of the best ways to attract birds to your garden, to persuade them to stay and to get them to become tame is by feeding them. This is however not a task to be taken lightly. Once you start to feed birds on a regular basis, you absolutely must continue to feed them regularly. If for any reason it becomes absolutely essential to stop feeding the birds, you must gradually reduce the amount fed over a number of weeks. Never suddenly stop feeding! ‘Your’ birds could, and probably would die of starvation, especially towards or during winter.
The reason for this is that most birds establish territories in which they live, feed and breed. They are not permitted to trespass on the neighbours’ territory without being attacked or even killed. The size of the territory is determined by the availability of nesting sites, water and food, the territory will be much smaller than otherwise. And if the food suddenly stops, it will be too small to support the resident birds.
Feeding tables can take many forms. Anything from a piece of wood nailed to a tree branch, through a tray on a pole to an elaborate, multi-tiered dry roman fountain is suitable. Look at your garden, and taking into account your personal taste, choose the style best suited to your circumstances. Many bird farms and nurseries offer specially made feeders that are both attractive and practical. The birds will soon get used to whatever you choose.
Far more important than the look and style of the feeder is its positioning. A shy Cape Robin will not feed on an elevated, bare table in the middle of the lawn, while doves and sparrows might be loath to enter thick bushes to feed. You also want to be able to watch the birds feeding, as that is probably the reason you are undertaking the exercise anyway.
The ideal situation is to have two feeding tables. One situated out in the open, the other positioned in, but not hidden, by fairly dense shrubbery. Make sure that you have a clear view of the tables from a comfortable chair in which you normally sit. There is nothing worse than spending hours crouched in front of an inconvenient window once the bird watching bug bites.
Finally, make sure that your (or your neighbours’) cats cannot get at the table. It is extremely unfair to lure birds to their death by providing food and then allowing cats to prey on them.
It is equally important that the feeding table which is near dense bush is still far enough from the bush so as to give the birds a safe distance from possible predators. Remember also that food will fall from the feeding table and increase the risk. Let common sense prevail!
A last word: Keep a dishwashing brush nearby for daily scrubbing of the bird bath and feeding table.
By Gordon M Duncan and Wings in Need