Matt Baker’s top tips for caring for garden birds

Matt Baker's top tips for looking after garden birds in winter. 

Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus / Parus caeruleus) perched in thorn bush
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Ever since we made a film about the way my Dad provides for the birds on our farm, viewers have got in touch to let us know how using his system has improved the lives of the visitors to their gardens.
From the huge quantities of seeds, nuts and berries stored in old, rusty chest freezers to the long line of feeders hanging from kitchen gutters and tree branches, Dad’s approach to feeding and accommodating birds really struck a chord.

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I believe it to be a kind of therapy (although it’s become an obsession for my Dad). In essence, you’re laying on a dinner party, except you never know who is going to show up next or, especially at this time of year, where they were before they landed in your garden.

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Be a good host

For me, the greatest joy is that, of all the places in the world, these birds have chosen to settle at our house. So, to make our visitors happy and to encourage them to return each year, we try to make their lives as easy as possible. As well as putting up bird boxes (we’re now on 79) we also add a few little extras to the feeding areas at this time of year.

You may not realise the speed at which birds can build their nests. Sometimes it only takes them a few days to complete a construction and the birds may fly hundreds of miles to find the perfect building materials.

To help them out we harvest mosses and nest-size twigs for bird builders to use. We also hang bits of sheep fleece on hedgerows for them and, last year, we even opened up an old feather pillow to provide them with some insulating materials. By the time we’d gone inside to watch the birds pick the feathers up, they’d all gone. 

An extra help you can give birds such as chaffinches and long-tailed tits is to encourage spiders in the garden. Not only will the birds eat the spiders, but they’ll use the cobwebs to bind their nests together. So don’t bother spring cleaning external nooks and crannies just yet.

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The fleeting relationships you can strike up with these little feathered visitors are wonderful. If you add a little more into your feeding stations each spring, you’ll experience even more heart-warming moments for years to come.