How to help migrant birds in the garden


migrant birds
Common swift in flight. Credit: RSPB Images

Spring is the season to expect migrant birds back in the UK. Here, the RSPB’s Helen Moffat advises on how to look after these prolific travellers in your garden.

Unlike the majority of us (who are not likely to be flying anywhere for a while), many birds will soon be flying back to the UK from places as far away as South Africa. Here are a few simple ways to help migrant birds in your garden as they prepare for breeding season.

Which birds migrate?

Though many migrant birds are small, their endurance is mighty. They are capable of flying hundreds, often thousands, of miles to reach the UK in time for the breeding season.

A few popular examples of migrant birds include: swifts, cuckoos, nightingales and turtle doves. Some of the first birds to arrive will be: chiff chaffs, swallows and redstarts. All these birds will be visible in our skies soon and, if we’re lucky, within hearing shot of our gardens.

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Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos. Credit: Craig Churchill, RSPB images

The big problem with this is that the number of green spaces in the UK is shrinking, meaning less nesting spots for our feathered friends, and less areas that provide a rich, regular supply of food. It’s therefore important we help them by making our gardens the perfect ‘bed and breakfast’ set up.

Five ways to help migrant birds in your garden:

Here are five simple ways you can help migrant birds in your garden, no matter how small. And, if you have kids, why not get your little helpers on the job?

1. Plant insect-loving plants and shrubs

Most migrant birds love to eat insects, and they’ll certainly be in need of an energy boost after flying such a great distance to get here. So, one way to help migrant birds in your garden is to grow insect-loving plants in it. Top suggestions include foxgloves, honeysuckle and buddleia, which will all add delicious scent and colour to your garden too.

Birdbox in RSPB Flatford wildlife garden. Credit: RSPB Images

2. Put up a nest box

Before you select a bird box to put up in your garden, bear in mind that different birds have different needs. Think about which birds are common visitors to your garden, and then put up the right box for them. For example, swift boxes are great for urban homes, where these fantastic flyers are finding it harder to nest.

3. Make a bug hotel

Bug hotels are fantastic for all kinds of insects. You can buy one or have some fun constructing one with bits and pieces from around your house and garden. Find more tips on how to build a bug hotel.

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Make sure all wildlife have access to water by including a ramp

4. Include a water feature

A pond is a great addition to any garden, as it attracts lots of wildlife and provides them with drinking water. You can find an easy kit online, or simply use something like an old washing up bowl. Just ensure there is a ramp or shallow edge to provide access for aquatic wildlife such as frogs.

5. Mow the lawn less

There has never been a better excuse not to mow the lawn. Just leaving the grass a little longer means there is much more space for tasty insects to inhabit. This is a really simple one, and can be achieved from the comfort of your sofa!

For more details about migrant birds, their fantastic journeys and how to help them when they reach the UK, head to rspb.org.uk

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