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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 October 2007, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
How your garden can be a haven for birds
By Alison Harper
BBC News

A garden
Even small gardens can be made increasingly bird-friendly

It is a fact that the number of blackbirds spotted in gardens has halved in the past 30 years.

Not only that, but the number of house sparrow sightings has fallen even more and then there is the starling - on average 15 were spotted per garden during the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' (RSPB) birdwatch in 1979. In 2007 it was just four.

"The last 25 years have been devastating for them, there's been a population decline of 50% or more for all three bird types," says Adrian Roberts from the RSPB.

Some may blame prowling cats - but the RSPB says that we humans are equally responsible, with our demand for housing and beautifully manicured lawns and borders.

The decline in garden birds is so serious that the RSPB has launched a campaign to make our gardens more wildlife friendly, turning them into a rich habitat for birds.

Shrubs and climbers

But how do you do it? Take my garden for example: small, decked, neat, regularly patrolled by a cat. Her presence means there are no birds. So what action should I take?

Adrian has come to visit to give me advice. First he takes a look around the five square metres and says: "You've got a lot going for you already. You've got a tufty lawn, perfect for blackbirds.

"You've got flowering plants for drawing in insects. If I was a bird I'd be looking for shelter where I could look after my young. Grow some shrubs and climbers."

Adrian's top tips for any garden are:

  • Plant a mix of deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers to provide food and shelter
  • Plant your own flowers which are nectar rich and seed bearing; you could try growing your own sunflowers or allysum
  • If you don't have a garden, putting a few pot plants on a balcony or windowsill could still provide important food for insects.

    For my garden Adrian recommends planting a pyrocantha, a prickly bush with orange berries.

    "It's got a nectar source in spring, it has berries in winter and will provide cover birds need for nests," he explains

    He also suggests holly, and has brought with him some nestboxes.

    "Start with the nestbox and put it high on the house, safe from the cat.

    "Try some thickety shrubs and you could even leave an area of longer grass which will provide insects".

    It really is that simple. Now if you too want to turn your back garden into a haven for our feathered friends, the RSPB is holding its Feed the Birds event on Saturday and their local teams have lots of advice on transforming your garden into a wildlife-rich habitat.

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