The sound of birdsong offers a peaceful start to the day. But thanks to widespread use of concrete, agricultural practices and a decline in biodiversity, birds are increasingly withdrawing from urban gardens, unable to find enough food.
Homeowners can do something about this, but bird boxes and baths aren’t the answer. Birds need to be able to live independently of people. So in fact, “doing nothing and leaving the garden to itself is a first step”, according to Sonja Doelfel of Bavaria’s regional association for the protection of birds.
While people may like a close-cut lawn, trimmed hedges and a huge terrace, they’re a turn-off for birds and insects. “Just one sunflower offers more food to a bird than a precision-cut conifer hedge,” says Magnus Wessel from German ecology group Bund.
Garden birds eat mostly fruits, insects and seeds, so Doelfel recommends gardeners choose local plants to attract more bugs. Foreign plant species, on the other hand, are more likely to produce fruits and seeds that native birds can’t stomach.
Both fruit trees and berry bushes offer food and places to build nests too. “After harvesting, it’s good to leave a few fruits to feed the birds,” says Wessel, adding that insects also spend time in trees, shrubs and bushes. And while people may see clover, nettles and thistles as weeds, insects love them.
Wessel suggests dividing your garden into three: one-third should be allowed to run wild, one-third should be for planting fruit and vegetables, the rest can be given over to the gardener’s personal preference. Birds love berries, so having some in your garden is a good way to attract winged visitors.
Removing dead leaves, and trimming bushes and hedges may be regarded as normal gardening, but it’s a “catastrophe” for birds, says Wessel. It leaves bugs with nowhere to go while birds lose their sources of food and shelter. Wessel advises leaving plants as they were when in bloom. – dpa