Birds are an important part of the biosphere, and their numbers and diversity are seen as a guide to the general health of the wider natural environment.
According to BirdWatch Ireland, 25% of Ireland’s native bird species are experiencing significant declines in numbers due to stress in various habitats, and a further 37% are experiencing only moderate declines. Scraps in outdoor spaces can also be used to improve these numbers.
Cian Cardiff is a young and passionate ornithologist, birder and wildlife expert who is increasingly recognized for his identification, sighting and photography skills on Irish social media and the Irish birding community. It is
He has been following the lives of birds and wildlife since he was eight years old and has written extensively in his beloved diary style. Generous of his knowledge, Cian leads individuals and groups across Ireland, hosts public lectures and conducts ornithological surveys.
We offer Cian his insight into raising garden birds during the harshest months of winter, at a time when commercial forestry and farming practices are degrading the environment and putting pressure on wild populations. He reveals that even limited outdoor space can provide important points of nutrition and shelter during this time when they are preparing to breed in pairs. I’m here.
“Feeding the birds in the garden in winter is very important,” he says.
“Many birds from the most common local species, such as the Great Tit, can benefit from bird feed such as seeds and nuts. Such as the blackcap, which probably arrived in Ireland in the winter from continental Europe. Seeds from afar helped the stranded apples.
Seed prices are rising along with general grain prices around the world. What foods should you focus on when budgeting to keep birds on your small acre plot or city balcony?
Cian replied: The best option is to make sure you have a variety of foods, from niger seeds to sunflower nuts. Utilize the seeds that feed under the turf so that they are not wasted.
“Look for a good balance of mixed foods. When you buy pre-mixed bags/sacks, you can either serve them in a single feeder or divide them into any number of feeders, table styles and positions. It works very efficiently, which gives a wider range of species the opportunity to strengthen their important fat stores.
“Decreasing temperatures and food sources in parts of Finland, Siberia, and North America could bring cold snaps to rare visitors like the jackdaw. The jackal feeds mainly on rowan and pyracantha berries. They also eat chopped apples that are still hanging on the tree, like blackcaps.
Some of the best seed deals are multibuys online. Boasting 480 calories per 100g, Niger seeds are very fine-grained, high in oil and regularly attract goldfinch, siskin and red pole.5kg €17.95, irishgardenbirds.ie.
Feeders can be placed throughout the branches they house, from suckers to windows. If you don’t have a lot of space out onto your lawn or patio, a wall-mounted feeder is ideal and can handle seed mixes, scraps, fat balls, and peanut cake squares (inside the cage).
In Cian’s view, what is the best design? “I think hanging bird feeders and bird tables are great resources for birds. With added details like protection, you can give small birds the best chance to feed undisturbed.
If you’re concerned about rodents reaching your ground food, look for designs with cages to keep them out, such as stuffing them overnight. Clean up spills regularly if they are near your home.
Avid birdwatchers use 4cm wire hanging baskets and shopping baskets tethered with zip ties.
As towns expand, hedges diminish, and wind, cold, and rain create special problems for small birds. Resolutions to enrich your garden’s biodiversity in 2023 include fostering an environment where birds and animals can rest, nest and take refuge in the area.
Cian advises: When predators are nearby, they seek cover such as hedges and trees to hide in. Cutting shrubs, hedges and trees should be done carefully.
“Planting hedgerows, hawthorns, holly, beech, blackthorn, hornbeam, etc., are excellent options when considering birds,” explains Cyan. “Berry-providing hedges/trees are important to many species, especially thrushes such as thrushes, blackbirds, song thrushes, wintering red thrushes, and field thrushes, providing both food and shelter. The best trees include crab apple and birch.”
Faced with both increased road traffic and declining wildlife due to domestic cats, some conscientious owners build what they call “catios.” These are safe indoor/outdoor areas dedicated to the comfort and entertainment of cats, protected 24/7 or at dawn and dusk when birds are most active.
Cian adds that it’s hard to keep a cat’s attention away from birds in your garden. “To avoid casualties, keep them away from feeding areas and the main areas where birds congregate in your garden. Create a place for your cat to roam without disturbing or killing your cat.This is especially important when the birds are in breeding season and have particularly vulnerable young.”
The Royal Ornithological Society suggests setting up a freestanding bird table 1.2m to 1.75m off the ground and in the least windy area.
They also advise using a few sharp bramble clippings scattered (again) under bushes and around feeders to deter cats. Don’t place wall feeders on top of fences that may be waiting for you.
Be aware that when looking at the wider population around your garden, you may have other unexpected lodgers, including hibernating hedgehogs. Foxes are an increasingly common sight in urban gardens. But should you feed the foxes?
“While you have hedgehogs in your yard, you need to reserve space for them to use,” continues Cian. “These include access points, protecting the area around the pond, being careful when mowing the lawn, avoiding the use of slug pellets, and making the garden a home. (Cat food is very acceptable), and you can grow native plants at the border to grow a natural diet.
As we head into the new year, what are Cian’s top tips for adding meaningful biodiversity to our gardens in the months to come? The method is to deliberately overgrow some areas as much as possible, manage others, and plant native species and other plants/trees that provide good food sources.
“Birdhouses are another very important resource for birds to roost as well as for breeding. Other wildlife such as mice and insects also use them. “Having birdhouses available all year round is very helpful for the wildlife and birds in your yard.”
- For more information on Cian, visit The Life of an Irish Birder on Facebook.