How to Keep Your Garden Birds Healthy
When your garden is a bird haven offering plenty of food and water, you’re doing your garden birds a big favour. They can supplement their diet during summer months and find the food they so desperately need throughout winter. However, any place that many birds congregate is a place where avian disease can spread.
Here are some ways you can limit the spread of illness and keep your garden birds healthy:
Manage the Food Supply
If your bird food is sitting on the bird table uneaten for days on end, that’s plenty of time for it to become rotten or mouldy. Put out less food at a time to make sure everything is eaten when it’s at its best.
Don’t Leave Food on the Ground
Some birds don’t like to eat from a bird table or hanging feeder. But food left directly on the ground can attract vermin like rats. Rats carry diseases that can affect both birds and humans. To avoid this health risk, use a ground tray for your bird food. That way you can take it away at the end of the day and keep it properly clean.
Clean Bird Feeding Equipment
Bird feeders, tables, baths and nest boxes can harbour parasites that cause disease. Bird droppings can also breed harmful bacteria. You should regularly clean and disinfect all of your bird care equipment. Leave everything to dry fully before putting it back in your garden. When it comes to a nest box, you have to be sure that no nesting birds are currently in residence before removing and cleaning it.
Move Feeders and Tables
Bird droppings can accumulate underneath hanging bird feeders and bird tables. Regularly move them around your garden so you don’t end up with a large, bacteria-breeding collection of faeces in the one place.
Look out for Sick Birds
If you find a dead bird or notice a sick bird in your garden, stop putting out bird food immediately. Clean and disinfect all feeders, tables, bird baths and (if the season allows) nest boxes. Once you stop seeing dead or sick birds, you can put the clean equipment back into your garden. This will help to prevent the spread of disease to your other garden birds.
Maintaining good hygiene of your garden and bird care equipment is essential. By following a few simple rules, you can ensure the health and happiness of your avian garden guests.
You might also be interested in our post on Tips to attract more birds to your feeder or one on Endangered Garden Birds and what you can do to help.
How to Identify Wild Birds
You don’t have to know the names of the birds that visit your garden. Seeing them there can be enjoyment enough. However, knowing the names of the species you see gives you the opportunity to learn a little more about them. It can also help you to provide the food and habitats your feathered friends like best.
Here are some handy tips for identifying wild birds in your garden:
Note Down Characteristics
Birds aren’t likely to stay put whilst you give them a thorough examination. You need to make a note of key characteristics before a bird disappears from view. Size, shape and colouring are all important features that can help you to distinguish one bird from another. The shape of the bill and legs are particularly useful. Birds of prey have hooked bills whilst seed-eaters tend to have short, stout bills. And webbed feet is another big giveaway.
Search Online or in A Book
Nowadays, searching for a bird online is the easiest way to make an accurate identification. There are databases that allow you to type in the features you have recorded and find a shortlist of potential matches. But doing things the old-fashioned way still holds its charm. A good bird guide is an essential piece of kit for any would-be bird spotter.
Watch Out for Red Herrings
There are plenty of bird features that could lead to a misidentification. Here are some things to watch out for:
- Young or female birds sometimes have different colouring to male birds of the same species.
- It’s very difficult to make an accurate assessment of a bird’s size when it’s in the air.
- In cold weather birds can fluff out their feathers for warmth making them look very different to the standard images you’ll find online or in books.
- Captive birds sometimes escape. If you spot an exotic bird it could be that this isn’t something you usually find in the wild.
Being able to identify birds successfully is a learning process. The more birds you see and correctly identify, the easier it will be to identify future unknowns. You could visit a bird sanctuary or nature reserve to get to know different bird varieties. This will help with identification back at home in the garden.
Identifying the birds you see in your garden is a great activity to share with children. But it can be a fun undertaking whatever your age. With a few items of basic kit you could soon be recognising your birds and adapting your garden to better meet their needs.
Seven Amazing Facts about Hedgehogs
Hedgehogs are a relatively common sight in UK gardens. These nocturnal creatures are most often seen during summer months before hibernating in the autumn to escape the cold British winter. Boxwild sells a Hedgehog Gift Box which is ideal for those who love our treasured garden friends!
Whilst almost all of us have seen a hedgehog at some point or other, there are a few things we may not know about our spiky friends. Take a look at our seven amazing hedgehog facts to find out more:
- Hedgehogs have between 5000 and 7000 spines. Their spines are known as quills. Quills are mostly hollow and contain a complex network of air chambers, making them light and strong. Hedgehogs lose and regrow quills throughout their lifetime.
- Baby hedgehogs are called hoglets. They’re usually born in June and July in a litter of four to five. On average just two to three make it past the weaning stage. This can be even less if a hedgehog nest is disturbed soon after birth – in these situations a mother hedgehog may abandon the hoglets or even eat them.
- Hedgehogs are omnivores. They can eat a wide variety of foods but the majority of their diet is made up of insects. Slugs, beetles and caterpillars are all firm hedgehog favourites, earning them a reputation as a dedicated gardener’s friend.
- Milk is bad for hedgehogs. It’s a common misconception that milk provides a tasty treat for hedgehogs. It can actually give them diarrhoea. Plain, fresh water in a shallow bowl is best.
Some hedgehogs have fleas but they can’t be transferred to humans. These fleas are actually known as hedgehog fleas and won’t survive on people or other animals.
- It’s estimated that 30% of the hedgehog population has been lost since 2002. Poor habitats, in both rural and urban areas, as well as difficult weather conditions are to blame. Creating a garden habitat and leaving food out for hedgehogs, particularly over the summer, can be a great help. You’ll be providing them with the nutrients and fat stores they need to survive hibernation come the autumn.
- Cutting a hole in your garden fence could help a hedgehog. If everyone on your street does the same, you’ll create a “wildlife corridor” through which hedgehogs can search for food and water without venturing into more dangerous territory.
Hedgehogs are incredible animals but they do need a helping hand from time to time. If you can offer shelter, food, water and an easy through road in your garden, you’ll be providing a much needed lifeline to your local hedgehog population.
Read more about our prickly friends in our post on five garden hazards for hedgehogs
5 Garden Hazards that Spell Danger for Hedgehogs
Around this time of year, hedgehogs are looking for a place to hibernate in time for winter. This means they’re a much more common sight in gardens across the country. If you want to make your garden a safe haven for hedgehogs, take care to avoid these five garden hazards:
Like all garden visitors, hedgehogs like to take a drink from any water sources you provide. A pond is the perfect place to quench their thirst but, whilst hedgehogs are good swimmers, they need an easy way to get out of the pond in case they fall in. A sloping side or some chicken wire provide a route in and out of the pond for any visiting hedgehogs.
Whenever you’re looking after your garden maintenance, spare a thought for hedgehogs. As their name would suggest, hedgehogs love to spend time in garden hedgerows. Be careful when mowing or using a strimmer close to hedges at the edge of your garden. Also take care when raking leaves or forking over the compost heap. These are all places where hedgehogs can be found.
Hedgehogs love to hide in piles of wood or garden refuse. It’s a dry and cosy place to nest or hibernate. If you’re getting rid of summer garden offcuts or preparing a bonfire for Guy Fawkes Night, try to prepare your bonfire just before you light it. That way, there’s much less chance of a hedgehog already having set up home there.
The netting you use to protect your fruit can pose a threat to a hedgehog. Put away any netting once you’ve picked your fruit and it’s no longer needed. This prevents hedgehogs from becoming entangled and injuring themselves trying to get free.
When you’re trying to protect your plants from slugs, slug pellets may seem like the only option. However, if you want to protect your hedgehog population too, it’s best to use natural alternatives such as crushed eggshells or coffee grounds. Slug pellets can be poisonous to hedgehogs so, if you really don’t see an alternative, try to put them under a slate where slugs can reach them but hedgehogs can’t.
As well as eliminating hazards, there are lots of other things you can do to make your garden a more welcoming place for hedgehogs. Leave out hedgehog food and provide areas of leaf litter and logs to create the perfect habitat for these garden mammals.
Read our article Seven Amazing Facts about Hedgehogs for more on our prickly friends!
Love Hedgehogs? Check out our Hedgehog Gift Box which provides great nutrition for our prickly friends
What to Do If You Find a Baby Bird
In the spring or summer, as baby birds are hatching and fledging, it’s not uncommon to find one sitting on the ground. But what should you do if you come across a baby bird?
First you need to determine whether it’s a nestling or a fledgling.
What is a Nestling?
Nestlings don’t have feathers and may be covered in fluffy down. They are unlikely to fall out of the nest by accident.
What is a Fledgling?
Fledglings have most of their feathers. It’s common for fledglings to leave the nest a few days before they can fly. Parents are likely nearby and still providing food.
Helping a Nestling
Nestlings sometimes fall out of the nest. Unhealthy or ailing nestlings are sometimes pushed out of the nest by a parent who chooses to focus on their healthy offspring.
If you find a healthy chick on the ground, you should try and return it to its nest. With clean hands or gloves, pick up the bird and place it carefully back in the nest. You need to be 100% certain that you’ve found the right nest before attempting this.
If the nestling you find is injured or you can’t find the nest it came from, you should call a wildlife rehabilitation centre who can advise you on what to do next. Don’t offer any food or water in the meantime.
Helping a Fledgling
In most cases, it’s safe to leave a fledgling exactly where you find it. A protective parent is usually nearby and the fledgling isn’t in any danger.
If, however, you find the bird on a busy walkway or road, in danger of being attacked or trodden upon, you can move it to a safer spot. Only move the fledgling a short distance so it can continue to communicate with its parents.
Keep an eye on the fledgling from a distance to ensure that its parents are still close by. If, after close monitoring, you’re sure that a fledgling has been orphaned, do as you would for a nestling and call a rehabilitation centre.
Taking a bird out of the wild is always a last resort. But sometimes expert care is needed. Whilst there’s lots of internet advice on how to look after a wild bird yourself, only a specialist can offer a baby bird the care it needs to survive and thrive.
5 Tips to Attract Wildlife to Your Garden
Enjoying wildlife from the comfort of your own garden – what could be better? If your outside space isn’t proving popular with the local animal population, take a look at our top five tips for attracting wildlife to your garden:
Create a Water Source
Birds and small mammals need water to drink. Frogs and newts can use it as a breeding ground. A pond with sloping sides and plants to provide cover from predators is ideal. But if you don’t have the space for something so big, any container, even an upturned dustbin lid, will do the trick.
Put out Food
Most creatures get the nourishment they need from their natural environment. But sometimes adverse weather conditions or habitat changes can hamper their ability to find adequate food. Research the best foods to provide for garden animals and leave it for your visitors on a regular basis. Your garden will be instantly more attractive to wildlife.
Let Sections of the Garden Go Wild
A carefully manicured lawn won’t attract wildlife to your garden. In contrast, a wildflower meadow acts as a wildlife haven. It will attract small mammals, butterflies and bees. If you don’t want to let your garden go completely wild, try to leave longer grass or wildflowers in designated sections. A small pile of decaying wood will also create a welcoming habitat for various species of beetle.
A bird box, a bat box, a hedgehog house, a bumble bee nester or a bug hotel – installing a wildlife friendly habitat is a great way to bring animals to your garden time and again. Do your research to maximise your chances of attracting wildlife to your habitat. Every bird and mammal species has their own set of preferences when it comes to house hunting.
Choosing flowers that provide high levels of pollen and nectar will attract bees, butterflies and other insects to your garden. Highly bred flower species contain little pollen or nectar so, if you do have some of these in your garden, counteract with plants like crocus, lavender, iris or alliums. You could go even further by carefully selecting plants to ensure constant flowering throughout the year, thus ensuring a year round food source for pollinators.
A garden full of wildlife is interesting for you and good for the environment. Introduce some wildlife-friendly changes and your garden could soon be a hive of mammal, bird, insect and amphibian activity. Take a look at our wildlife subscription gift box which makes an ideal present for a nature lover