We all love to see and hear birds in our gardens and when we are out and about. They aren’t just beautiful; birds play an essential role in the functioning of the world's ecosystems and directly impact on our mental and physical health. Unfortunately, bird numbers in the UK are in sharp decline, for example, tree sparrows by 95%, starlings by 71%, song thrushes by 56% and bullfinches by 53%. There are many reasons why bird numbers are declining including a loss of suitable nesting sites in urban areas.
One reason for this loss is our obsessive preoccupation with everything looking ‘neat and tidy’ in our gardens and public spaces. This has two consequences: Firstly, nowhere to nest safely - too exposed. Secondly, no natural food sources near to the nest site (did you know that a blue tit needs up to 1000 caterpillars a day to feed its brood?). Imagine having to drive to Bristol from Worcester to do your food shopping! No thanks.
The nature of our buildings has also changed over the decades. Urban buildings frequently no longer have the nooks and crannies that they used to have for birds to nest in. House sparrows (62% decline), for example, in particular suffer from a lack of old style eaves to nest in in modern housing.
What can we do to help our nesting birds?
Trees, hedges, scrub and climbing plants can play a key role in the provision of nesting sites in our cities. Trees with cavities are particularly useful for nesting birds. However, in young woodlands, parks and gardens there may be plenty of food for small birds but nowhere for hole-nesting birds to nest. Of course we have to consider the safety of the public, but whenever possible we should keep older trees for our feathered friends. A dense hedge can also act as a natural nest site as well as providing useful food. Many birds will nest in all types of scrub, including linnets, dunnocks, willow warblers, turtle doves, song thrushes and blullfinches.You might consider having ivy; it is rarely as harmful as it is often portrayed and can in fact be incredibly beneficial to all kinds of wildlife including bees (I once had a beautiful little wren nesting in ivy right next to the front door of my house). Another good climber is honeysuckle (one of my favourite scents of all time).
A simple solution is a bird box. They are an excellent substitute for the holes found in trees and provide a safe place for birds to build their nests where they are protected from the inclement weather and predators. In the colder months, birds can use them to stay warm. Having a bird box in your garden or in public spaces (with permission) is a great way to attract all kinds of birds (over 60 species will use them). It is also enjoyable and very rewarding to see the birds moving into the box, building their nest, feeding their young, then the fledglings leaving the nest. Regular residents include blue, great and coal tits, nuthatches, house and tree sparrows, starlings, spotted and pied flycatchers, robins, house martins, kestrels and tawny owls.
It’s always best to purchase a bird box from a reputable source to make sure they are well made and suitable for our native birds. There are three options you might consider:
Give a donation to The WEG - Worcester Environmental Group. Our bird boxes are made to RSPB plans and are much cheaper than other good quality bird boxes. All money raised goes towards environmental projects in Worcester. If you would like one (or more!) contact Paul Snookes on 07742 111239. We can deliver them for free locally.