How to Build a Habitat Garden

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The nesting requirements of different species of birds are very diverse. Some love holes in old trees, others dense foliage, such as that provided by shrubs, hedges, or climbers like ivy.

It is possible to attract a wide variety of birds, from owls to robins, by pulling up a range of nest boxes. Like birdbaths, there are many different styles available, from thatched rustic to Shaker style. It is also possible to buy traditional and rather grand white-painted pigeon- or dovecotes, which can either be fixed on the side of a building or set on a post and left freestanding.

Whether you decide to buy a box or construct your own make sure that it is water-tight and remember that it is the size of the entrance which will determine which bird uses it.

It is important to choose the correct spot to site your box, otherwise, the birds will simply slum it. Pick a place where it is not exposed to direct sunlight and where a cat cannot reach it – at least 3m above ground on a tree trunk, wall or fence.

Once the box is in place leave it well alone for the birds to find it. The only thing you can do to encourage them, besides making sure there is a good supply of food nearby, is to provide nesting material. This could be dry grass cuttings, fluffy pampas grass, thistledown and small twigs.

Once the birds are happily settled it’s important not to disturb them too much. It is fine very quietly to peep into the box every once in a while but beware of scaring them off, especially when they have little babies. It is much better to watch their coming and goings from a distance.

Once the babies have grown up and flown the nest the box will need to be cleaned out and disinfected. This is an excellent opportunity for children to examine the nest. They will find dissecting it totally fascinating but discourage them from taking the nest indoors as it may well be full of mites and fleas.

When you have cleaned out and thoroughly aired the box, sprinkle some clean hay or a few wood shavings inside it and leave it for the next occupants.

Occasionally you may see a newborn bird on the ground. While it seems lost it has probably just fallen out of its nest, which is bound to be just above it. First find the nest, then gently scoop up the little bird and put it back. However, if the baby is a bit older and has leathers, do not touch it. Simply observe from a distance and scare off any predators, as the mother is probably close by and may even be leaching it to fly.

If you are really keen on birds it is mil a good idea to have a cat. They are natural hunters and will not be able to slop themselves going alter each and every bird which braves your garden. You cannot chastise this instinctive behavior but it can be distressing to see creatures killed for sport.

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