Why are the birds ignoring their food?

by Kate Bradbury

Last winter, when I went to great trouble to feed the birds in my garden, my offerings were largely ignored. This winter, I'm trying again...

Close-up of robin redbreastLast winter, when I went to great trouble to feed the birds in my garden, my offerings were largely ignored. This winter, I'm trying again, leaving seeds, chopped apples and suet pellets for ground-feeding birds such as robins, blackbirds and thrushes, as well as filling the feeders with seeds and peanuts. However, once again, only the pigeons are gobbling them up.

The pigeons are so at home in my garden that they've started coming up to the patio door if they're hungry. I don't mind, I've plenty of food, but what about the blue tits, great tits and other small birds? If only I could tell them how much high-energy food is waiting for them in my garden.

No matter how hungry birds are, they'll only visit gardens in which they feel safe. A bird-friendly garden should have a tree for them to perch in, and lots of dense shrubbery and climbers where they can hide from predators.

Looking at the bare bones of my garden I can see why the birds aren't coming. There are lots of climbers, which, once they have grown, will provide cover for birds. The shrubs are tiny and don't yet provide any structure or sheltering opportunities. The teasels, cosmos and sunflowers I've left to seed stand like skinny stalks above flat, lifeless foliage. And I don't have a tree. I've been debating whether to get a tree for ages, but my garden is 4m² and gets very little sun, and I'd have to grow it in a pot as the soil is so shallow.

Another problem is that my garden is isolated. Of the five 'gardens' in the row, mine is the only one which isn't paved over, so there's no safe 'corridor' for birds to travel along to reach it. But, while there's still no sign of blue tits and great tits, I did see a robin and blackbird in the garden this morning. A sure sign that they're getting desperate.

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Gardeners' World Web User 03/12/2010 at 15:38

We used to have pigeons perching on the half-door, waiting for food. My mother calls them "flying rats" sometimes.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/12/2010 at 16:17

Same problem. I have a 'new' garden and have been very disappointed at the lack of birds wanting to eat from my feeders. We've been in the house for nearly 8 years now and in the time we've been here I have planted 9 trees and lots of shrubs so I am hoping that as they mature the birds will return to my garden.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/12/2010 at 17:39

I have 3 cats and a dog that run round my garden but it's teeming with hungry birds who eagerly gobble up the peanuts, seed, bread and fruit (sometimes cake if they're very lucky!)that I leave out. I have hung four feeders from a large cotoneaster tree that is further sheltered by a very tall conifer which does give them some protection, I suppose. I get some pigeons, but also get several pairs of doves, and they all hoover up what the other birds drop. I have a Rill running through the garden which gives them constant, gently running water throughout the year and they drink from this and bathe in it. Every year I have blackbirds, sparrows and blue tits who nest in the leylandii and the ivy, stoically ignoring the beautiful nesting boxes I have dotted around the place! There are some tense moments while the fledglings are on the ground due to the pets, but I have plenty of dense shrubs for them to hide in. Oh, and my garden (as it is now) is 4 years old :-)

Gardeners' World Web User 03/12/2010 at 21:00

My birds (a huge variety including jays, nuthatches, goldfinches, bullfinches, siskins,warblers as well as the usual garden birds) eat everything I put out and I deliver a lot. I have a ground feeder, tree feeders for peanuts, niger seed, fat blocks (which I make myself), a peanut feeder for squirrels and jays (also magpies and crows, both of which are not slow) and a general wild bird feeder. I also put a mixture of seed, crushed peanuts,and raisins on the ground. It all goes! I do have a tree to hang the feeders on but one could buy a stand for this. My garden is not ultra tidy so there is lots of cover. I also have 4 cats which visit and WATCH the birds - I have never seen them chase them! (Just entertainment, I guess!). I also have a fox and badger which visit for home made food goodies at night, so I am blessed with wildlife and I really enjoy watching them all.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/12/2010 at 22:47

The pigeons in my garden, which nest in the neighbours leylandi trees chase away the other birds. One in particular will eat and eat until its full and then sit on top of the bird table and keep the other birds from getting a look in. I feel like running out and knocking his block off, big bully.

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