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I live in a suburb in a country town with plenty of large trees and my garden has shrubbery and a bird bath. Yet we seldom hear birdsong and if I put out fat balls and bird feeders, there are no takers. (We don't get rats and mice either, which is a blessing!) All we get are seagulls and lots of magpies which eat bread and bits of meat that I throw onto the garage roof. I think the magpies are driving away the smaller birds. Can I attract smaller birds back into the immediate area? If so, how can I protect them from the magpies?
I don't think you can deter magpies - but probably because you are throwing stuff which they can easily see - on to an open area - they are going to think it's a permanent picnic! They are ground feeders and don't/won't/can't eat from suspended bird-feeder type things. They will, of course, hoover up stuff which falls from them on to the ground below.
I don't think it's ever a good idea to site bird tables/feeders right out in the open. The smaller birds need to feel safe, and so if you can hang things from the lower branches of, say, a small tree you'll probably find that the small birds will soon discover the food source and will be able to shelter in shrubs etc nearby - if you have them.
By putting bread and bits of meat on the garage roof you're doing the best you can to attract seagulls and magpies. Seagulls love swooping down to scavenge bread, and magpies eat carrion, and that's what you're providing, so my advice would be to stop doing that.
Then do as hypercharleyfarley suggests and hang feeders in a sheltered spot, near some bushes where the small birds can take cover if a sparrowhawk appears.
I find that birds cannot resist the white sunflower hearts so I have one tube feeder with those in, and another with mixed seeds and another with a mix for soft-billed birds (insect eaters like robins and wrens). Blocks of fat with insects in, hung in a wire container attracts Gt Spotted Woodpeckers and members of the tit family
Provide a constant supply of fresh water in a birdbath or large plant saucer on the ground with a stone in it for small birds to perch on.
Clean the feeders regularly and keep them topped up, sit back and be patient.
They'll turn up.
Thanks for all this excellent advice. I have largely stopped throwing food onto the garage roof and if the magpies land on the lawn, my two small dogs have a lot of excitement driving them off. However, there is a colony of them on a nearby common and I know I won't get rid of them. Similarly, seagulls come inland when the weather is bad (pretty often, then). They have always done this but in previous houses, we have not been without smaller birds. This area seems blighted of them. I do know that magpies raid the nests of smaller birds.
You do have to be patient - plus the advice on siting feders is good. Birds need to feel secure, so putting feeders within an easy dash of cover will bring the greatest sucess.
Another tip is to check that the food in your feeders hasn't got past it whilst you've been waiting! It doesn't last for long and birds will not take sprouting birdseed or mouldy peanuts.I now have a constant traffic of birds in my garden but even so, sometimes I throw food away - it seems to go in phases.and peanuts. in particular, tend to get left.
Again, many thanks for this good advice. We have created a thicket for shelter and even put up a couple of nesting boxes, which get ignored.I was surprised to discover on this forum that magpies are officially regarded as pests and can be shot at any time of the year. They are beautiful but, I suppose, too successful in adapting to the modern world and there are too many of them. Cuckoos, also destructive of smaller species, are apparently in severe decline, but those **** magpies just keep going.
magpies are very clever birds, best way to deal with them is to buy a cage with a spring loaded door on top and put a magpie decoy inside, the magpie jumps into the cage and triggers the door. The magpie is then dealt with using a stout pair of gloves. My uncle who is a sheep farmer in N wales uses this method about 3 months from lambing time. The lovely magpies and crows like to peck newborn lambs eyes out and exhausted ewes while in the season. Of course poor animals have to be put down.
I live in Birmingham, there are millions of magpies, we still manage to get some small birds visiting, I'm trying to encourage this by removing the decidous hedge that circles my front garden and replacing with blackthorn, providing good nest sites and food. I'm going to keep taking the heads out of the hedge to make it really dense, this will at least stop the larger birds getting easy access to nests.
Thanks for the info, LearningSlowly (think I should have taken that nickname myself!) I won't be able to kill magpies. I can certainly see why a farmer would but I have the luxury of squeamishness.There are cats around here as well as magpies and my own two exciteable dogs, so I expect I'm on a loser, but I'll keep trying.
Makes you wonder how all these birds evolved and persisted in living side-by-side for thousands of years if one species was actually busily and effectively killing off all the rest.
Some birds are deterred by shiny things, so I would have thought painting the stainless steel feeder with a matt enamel paint would help. I don't very often get tits or finches of any variety visiting the garden, but we do have a pair of nesting blackbirds in the rowan at the bottom of the garden (Who frequently tell me off for using my patio area!) and we have LOTS of sparrows nesting in the blackthorn hedge. I had the luxury of seeing fieldfares in the rowan when we had snow, they really are beautiful birds. I've had a spotted woodpecker trying to get into the garage(?), and we occasionally see a sparrowhawk, generally it's going too fast to get a good picture. We had a lot of starlings last week, the male blackbird, bless him, tried to chase them away from HIS bird table, but there were too many of them for him to manage on his own. I've also seen the after-effects of the sparrowhawk, in the form of the feathers from a collared dove (they really are spectacularly stupid birds, those doves). I'd love to see some blue tits, coal tits and great tits, chaffinches etc, but I'll have to be satisfied with the sparrows, as apparently they are in decline - they raised at least two broods last year in my garden, and I'm always seeing them on the feeders, so I must be doing something right!
I'd be pleased to see anything - except those blasted gulls and magpies!