Property development for birds

It'll be nesting season in Britain soon. Here are some things to help the birds near you.

 Nesting season begins in Britain in the next couple of weeks or so, and birds will be choosing sites for their nests. Britain in the 21st century is a tough place to be a small bird. The house sparrow was once so common that they were a pest, and there were ‘sparrow clubs’ where people were paid for every dead sparrow brought in. Two centuries later the sparrow is on the red list. Numbers have declined by 62% in the last 25 years, and possible explanations vary from pesticide use on farms, to road traffic, light pollution and even mobile phone signals. This year’s cold winter may have reduced bird populations further.

Here are some things you can do to help:

  • It’s not too late to put up birdboxes. There are different types for different birds, from simple boxes to fit in trees to larger ones that fit under eaves.
  • Hang out some natural fibres, wool for example, in the garden for birds to collect as nesting material.
  • Scatter some straw on the lawn, and prune the bushes in the garden. Leave the fresh prunings on the ground for birds, such as starlings, that use leaves and fresh twigs to make their nests.
  • Many people like a crisp and uniform lawn, and kill of anything that isn’t grass. Some birds use the moss to line or camouflage their nests, so a chaotically diverse and organic lawn is better for birds.
  • If it’s been dry, create a little muddy patch in your garden. Some birds build their nests out of mud, or use mud to hold it together.
  • If you don’t like spiders, but have found their webs out the back of the shed, resist clearing them away – or at least not right now. Some birds use spider webs as glue when making their nests.

For more on the quite remarkable process of covert property development going on all around us every spring, visit the RSPB.

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