Make your garden THE place to perch with feeders and baths for the birds

Private Property South Africa
The Roosting Venus

Feeders and baths are a wonderful way to attract a variety of bird life to your garden. Here's how to get started.

While purists tend to limit themselves to introducing indigenous bird-friendly plant species to a garden, there are many who feel they need to take the extra step of providing feeders for birds as well as bird baths in their gardens. And with man’s ever increasing encroachment on their natural habitat, although there are some negative consequences, many feel that positives justify this type of intervention.

Rule number one for those stepping in with “man-made” offerings is security. Whether it’s a feeder or a bird bath, safety is a primary concern, and trays and baths need to be placed where birds have an easy escape route and are high enough off the ground that they cannot be ambushed by cats.

Feeders and baths should ideally be placed on a pedestal or attached to a tree trunk, within reach of a hose – for easy cleaning (and refill in the case of a bird bath) and near overhanging branches or shrubbery for that quick escape. Do remember too, to position baths and feeders near a window, a veranda or a webcam where you can enjoy the goings-on too! (Do beware though of large expanses of window into which birds may fly.)

Feeders come in an assortment of designs and cater to different types of birds such as seed, fruit, nectar and meat eaters. The simplest feeder is probably a bird table that offers a selection of seeds, fruit secured on a nail and bone meal pressed into a corner, with a nearby bottle of sugar water for nectar lovers. It isn’t at all necessary to have all food types in one area, putting fruit out in one part of a garden, scattering seeds elsewhere and pressing bone meal into a remote tree trunk will do the trick too, as birds enjoy the space and privacy. It is important however, whatever type of feeder you are using to minimize the risk of spreading disease by ensuring feeding stations are disinfected regularly, and the food does not become mouldy or rancid.

Fresh water is always a great source of delight for birds – and hugely rewarding for the homeowner. Although you need to choose a secure place for the bird bath, avoid putting it under a branch or near a feeding table as the leaves and droppings will quickly contaminate the water.

While birdbaths come in a variety of shapes and sizes, do make sure that yours is securely anchored, so it doesn’t topple over, and not too deep – place a few stones in the centre if it’s too deep for small birds. Keep the water clean in your birdbath by brushing away the algae every so often and replacing every few days. Good materials for bird baths include stone, ceramic, copper, metal and resin but do bear in mind that birds that birds like to perch on the edge of a bath and that they should be rough bottomed so birds don’t lose their footing (add a layer of sand if yours is too smooth).

For an extra treat add a little motion (a tiny fountain, a small pump or a leaking tap) - birds can’t resist dripping water.

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