How To Attract Birds To Your Garden

How To Attract Birds To Your Garden

The best way to attract birds to your garden is to provide them with food. Then they need shelter, water and nesting sites. Start with some bird feeders, a bird table and a birdbath. This will attract a few birds to start taking interest in your garden then you have to take a look at what species of birds are living in your area.

How To Attract Birds To Your Garden At A Glance

  • Start By Hanging A Few Bird Feeders In Your Garden
  • Add A Bird Table
  • Add A Birdbath With Regular Water Changes
  • Plant Trees, Shrubs And Bushes To Provide Some Cover For The Birds
  • Add Plants That Produce Berries
  • Add Plants That Provide Seeds
  • Add Plants That Attract Insects

Even if you live in a city and only have a tiny garden, you will attract birds to your garden as long as you provide some sort of food. If you add more variety, you will attract more varieties of birds. It also helps if your home is anywhere near a park, area of greenery, even a football pitch or two.  

Birds live in nature and the more of nature you can provide in your garden, the more birds will come to it. You need to remember birds are wild creatures and they will only come to your garden if they feel safe. 

Bird Bath

How To Make A Safe Environment For Garden Birds

Some birds are more cautious than others and so some species will need extra encouragement to visit your garden. Many “shy” birds will only visit if they feel they have enough cover from trees or bushes. Making a hedge will definitely help in attracting birds, even more so if it’s an edible hedge. Try planting shrubs that produce berries, fruit or even just seed bearing plants will add to the number of birds and species of birds you can attract.

Some plants that attract insects will also attract different bird species to your garden, and bushes that provide natural perches will help too. Even a simple wild flower area will attract many seed eating birds.

Adding a bird box or two will also help in increasing bird visitors, as will leaving an area open to lawn maybe so birds can see if any predators start prowling around. Adding something as simple as a bug hotel, which is really just a pile of twigs suspended in a bush or against a fence, will help to attract birds. A birdbath is a great way to attract extra birds, as like us, birds need freshwater daily.

Birds need water to clean their feathers and also to drink. Many people feed the birds but not as many provide them with water. Birdbaths can be as simple as a shallow bowl, or as elaborate as a full size pond with a fountain or waterfall. The birds will appreciate whatever water you provide as long as it’s fresh and birdbaths are cleaned regularly.

If your garden is large enough, consider adding a native tree or two, something like an oak tree or a silver birch. Trees not only provide shelter, shade and food for birds, they also provide somewhere they can roost.

What Birds Can You Expect To Visit Your Garden?

There are a few factors that will affect the varieties of birds you will get visiting your garden. These include;

  • Proximity To Woodlands
  • Proximity To Parks
  • Garden Size
  • Amount Of Cover Provided
  • Type Of Food Provided
  • Garden Pets
  • Local Birds Of Prey

In the UK we have many common garden birds even in towns and cities and you can expect to see at least some of these birds if you have provided some food and/or water. The common garden birds that might visit your garden include;

  • Starlings
  • Collared Doves
  • Sparrows
  • Pigeons
  • Robins
  • Blackbirds
  • Great Tits
  • Blue Tits
  • Goldfinches
  • Chaffinches
  • Magpies
  • Crows
  • Dunnocks
  • Greenfinches
  • Long-Tailed Tits
  • Coal Tits
  • Goldcrests
  • Wrens
  • Siskins
  • Jays
  • Wood Pigeons

What Food Do You Need To Attract Which Birds?

The variety of birds found in your area won’t all feed in your garden and depending on the size of your garden some won’t even pay you a visit. But to attract different birds, you need to provide the food they eat. The following is a list of those common garden birds and what food they prefer.

What Is The Best Food For Robins?


You can’t miss the bright flash of red or orange from the breast of a robin. To attract robins to your garden you should provide the following foods;

  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Fruit
  • Seeds
  • Suet
  • Crushed Peanuts
  • Sunflower Hearts
  • Raisins

You don’t have to supply all of the above and you will also find many other birds that eat the same foods visiting your garden too.

What Is The Best Food For The Tit Family?

We’ve bunched all of the tit family together here as they all have similar food tastes. They like to eat;

  • Insects
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Fruits
  • Mealworms
  • Suet
  • Fat Balls

What Is The Best Food For The Finch Family?

Finches of all kinds are seed eaters so to attract any of the finch family to your garden you will need a special finch feeder (available from most reputable pet stores) and;

  • Seeds – Especially Niger Seeds
  • Sunflower Chips

What Is The Best Food For Wrens?


Wrens are very territorial birds so you’ll probably only notice one or 2 at the most but they prefer to eat;

  • Mealworms
  • Peanut Butter
  • Crushed Peanuts
  • Suet

They will also appreciate peanut butter or suet smeared on branches or tree trunks.

What Is The Best Food For Pigeons And Doves?

Pigeons, wood pigeons, collared doves and doves all have similar diets which include pretty much anything if their hungry enough, but they prefer;

  • Grains
  • Seeds
  • Greens
  • Fruit
  • Berries
  • Apples (cut up with the pips removed)
  • Pears (cut up with the pips removed)
  • Insects
  • Snails
  • Earthworms
  • Mealworms

What Is The Best Food For Blackbirds?

Blackbirds have a wide and varied diet including;

  • Insects – caterpillars and beetles
  • Spiders
  • Snails
  • Earthworms
  • Mealworms
  • Seeds
  • Apples (cut up and with the pips removed)
  • Pears (cut up and with the pips removed)
  • Berries

What Is The Best Food For Starlings?

In the wild like many garden birds, starlings go for invertebrates during the Summer months and then on to fruit and berries in Winter. In the garden starlings will eat;

  • Suet
  • Fat Balls
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower Hearts
  • Mealworms

What Is The Best Food For Crows?


Crows can become fussy eaters, if you give them something they get a taste for, they won’t eat any substitutes, they enjoy;

  • Peanuts 
  • Other Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Apples (Chopped And de-seeded)
  • Pears (chopped and de-seeded)
  • Small Pellets Of Dried Dog Food
  • Small Pellets Of Dried Cat Food
  • Small Pieces Of Meat

What Is The Best Food For Magpies?


In the wild magpies mainly eat beetles, flies, caterpillars, worms, leather jackets and spiders, but they will take food from bird tables too and are partial to;

  • Grains
  • Seeds
  • Fruit
  • Berries
  • Kitchen Scraps

What Is The Best Food For Jays?

Jays are probably the most colourful member of the carrion family we get here in the UK and to attract them to your garden you should provide;

  • Nuts
  • Peanuts (whole or shelled)
  • Mealworms
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Cracked Corn
  • Suet
  • Fat Balls
  • Berries
  • Wild Cherries
  • Grapes

What Is The Best Food For Dunnocks?

Dunnocks also known hedge Sparrows (they even look like sparrows) feed on small insects including spiders, worms, fruit and seeds. To attract them to your garden they prefer to eat on the ground so a ground feeder would be useful, on to which you should put;

  • Crushed Peanuts
  • Sunflower Hearts
  • Small Seeds

What Is The Best Food For Sparrows?


Sparrows survive in the wild on insects and seeds, to attract them to your garden you should feed them;

  • Small Bird Seed
  • Sunflower Hearts 
  • Mealworms

Sparrows often catch insects disturbed when mowing grass so don’t be surprised if you see sudden movements behind you when you’re cutting your lawn.

Which Garden Birds Are Ground Feeders?

Knowing which garden birds feed on the ground is important so you can provide the correct food in the most suitable place for the birds that visit your garden. There are around 13 fairly common garden birds that usually feed from the ground; they include some which migrate in Winter and others who are year round residents. Of all the birds that frequent British gardens nationwide, the most common are sparrows and robins.

Common British Garden Birds And Their Feeding Habits

Bird SpeciesGround FeedersTable FeedersHanging Feeders
ChaffinchYesYesYes (specially shaped feeders)
Mistle ThrushYesNoNo
SiskinsNoNot OftenYes
GoldcrestsYesOnly In Severe Weather (Snow)No
CrowsYesNo No
JaysNoYes (Winter)Yes (Peanuts)
Blue TitsNoNoYes
Long-Tailed TitsOn Rare OccasionsNoYes
Great TitsNoYesYes
Coal TitsNoNot OftenYes
Collared DovesYesYesNo
Wood PigeonsYesYesNo

The Loss Of Birds Natural Habitat

Sadly many birds in the UK have lost or are losing their natural habitats. This is mainly to do with farming methods, but an increase in house and commercial building has played a part too. Modern farming methods lead to the destruction of many hedgerows, insecticide and pesticide usage poisons the food of many birds and ultimately the birds too.

The soil is farmed all year with no land left fallow where birds could nest or find food. They have also taken to draining many wetlands to increase crop growth. Many farmers have replaced their old barns with modern structures constructed from non corrosive materials which leads to no spaces for nesting.

The building of houses and commercial properties is encroaching on more heathlands and woodlands, and even flood plains. All areas where birds nested and found food.

How Serious Is The Decline In Bird Numbers?

The most recent figures available for the decline in numbers of some common birds makes for shocking reading. According to [1] the number of birds in the UK has fallen by a staggering 40 million in the past 50 years. Planet wide, 40% of bird species are in decline. Between 1996 and 2015 the UK red list of birds of concern has increased from 36 to 67 species according to the same source.

According to the common bird census between 1970 and 1999 birds on the decrease include;

  • Tree sparrows are down in numbers by 95% 
  • Corn buntings are down by 88% 
  • Willow Tits are down by 78%
  • Spotted flycatchers are down by 77%
  • Woodcocks are down by 74%
  • Starlings are down by 71%
  • Turtle Doves are down by 71%
  • Song thrushes are down by 56%
  • Bullfinches are down by 53%
  • Skylarks are down by 52%
  • Cuckoos are down by 33%

Source RSPB [2]

Thankfully there is a more heightened awareness of these issues, and more is being done in the areas of conservation. Which gives us hope for birds in future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I put in my garden to attract birds?

To attract birds to your garden you can put a few plants that attract insects, some berry producing shrubs, a birdbath, some bird feeders, a bird table, or any combination of bird friendly plants.

Which bird feeder attracts most birds?

The hopper type bird feeders seem to attract most birds, possibly because they allow more birds access at the same time.

Do bird feeders attract rats?

Rats do seem to be attracted to bird feeders so it is a good idea to remove feeders in the evening.

Do birds like white bird feeders?

Birds seem to dislike anything white. It signifies danger in the bird world.