Garden Birds and how to help them

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Cork Nature Network have some great tips on how you can help biodiversity from your own back garden. Never underestimate how much you can contribute with a few simple changes. Today we look at how you can give garden birds a helping hand.

Providing a variety of food and shelter will attract different bird species to your garden. One of the most natural and sustainable ways to encourage birds into your own garden is by introducing plants which will provide shelter and an abundant food source such as seeds and berries. Native plants will also encourage native insects into your garden which birds can then feed on.

Birds can sometimes struggle to find food in Autumn and Winter. Plants which provide food during these seasons are important.

Guelder Rose and Holly are excellent choices. Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) (Caorchan) produces beautiful white flowers in Spring and clusters of red berries in Autumn. This is suitable for bigger gardens as it can grow up to 5 metres and spread up to 3 metres.

Guelder Rose
Guelder Rose – Caorchon









Holly (Ilex aquifolium) (Cuileann) looks great in any garden and is an excellent food source for birds right through the winter. It is a small plant and does not usually grow higher than 1 meter making it suitable for small gardens. To ensure a good crop of berries plant a male and female holly bush close together.


If you do not have space or time to maintain plants

Garden Birds – Nestbox

You can still provide a haven for birds. You can do this by introducing artificial shelter and nesting sites in the form of bird boxes. Remember different birds will use different size nest boxes to mimic their natural nesting sites. Tits and wrens will use nest boxes with a small entrance hole.

Robins and wrens will use choose a more open fronted nest box.

Blackbirds will choose a birdbox with a wider opening.


Bird feeders


It is a good idea to use a variety of feeders that will cater for different species needs. Remember different foods will attract different birds. Feeders with mesh or wire are suitable for storing large seeds, fat balls, and peanuts.

Polycarbonate Tube feeders are excellent for holding seed mixes.

Food Types

Peanuts are a great food source. They are full of protein with a high calorie count. They will attract blackbird, blackcap, blue tit and great tit, chaffinch, goldfinch, and greenfinch. Sunflower seeds will attract bullfinch, coal-tit, house-sparrows, and greenfinch.  Seed mixes will attract collared doves, finches, tits, and wood pigeons.

Don’t forget to keep your feeders clean with some warm soapy water on a regular basis. This helps to limit the spread of disease.


It is important to supply a water source for birds. This offers them somewhere to bathe and provides them with a fresh source of drinking water. Water for bathing is important for birds, it is essential to maintain their feathers. It loosens dirt making feathers easier to preen.

Some Tips

  • Place your bird box securely to a tree or wall, and as high as possible from the ground.
  • Try to keep your feeding times regular as birds can become dependent on your food supply and can waste valuable foraging hours waiting on your food supply.
  • Keep your bird feeders clean and keep the food fresh. Never offer damp or mouldy food.
  • Keep feeders at least 1.5 metres above ground and away from bushes to avoid preying cats.
  • Hang your bird feeder in view of a window if possible. This will allow you to monitor and enjoy all the birds.


Record your sightings

After all your hard work to make your garden hospitable for birds why not record your sightings. Every year between December and February Birdwatch Ireland runs a Garden Bird Survey. Taking part is easy and everyone can get involved. For more information visit



Viburnum opulus – Guelder Rose water/

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Photos : David J Sullivan, Isobel Abbott, unless specified otherwise