Feeding garden birds without attracting unwanted pests

I am often asked by clients how can I feed my birds without attracting unwanted pests. The good news is there are a range of feeders and foods for attracting a variety of birds to your garden while minimising attracting unwanted pest species that may pose a health threat to family pets, children or the elderly.


Positioning of feeders

Garden birds have a range of natural predators e.g. magpies, sparrow hawks, grey squirrel and the family or neighbouring cat. It is therefore never a good idea to place feeders in open spaces or too close to vegetation. Ideally place feeders 1-2 metres from hedging for a quick and timely exit to cover if required.


Birds and water

Providing water is essential for birds, not just during the summer but also during the cold spells when other water sources may be frozen. Birds require water for drinking but also to keep their feathers in good condition. Clean both feeders and water baths with disinfectant or household bleach. After cleaning, rinse and dry.


Bird food

The most natural way to feed birds is to plant shrubs that produces food to feed the birds e.g. Elder, rowan, hawthorn, ivy, holly, honeysuckle, teasel, cotoneaster, sunflower, guelder rose or shrub rose. Other foodstuffs e.g. Nyjer seed, peanuts, fat balls and fruit. Avoid loose bird feeds that fall out of bird feeders to the ground which encourage the presence of nocturnal rodents like Roland and Jerry.


Bird feeders

The bird food used determines the feeder to be used. They should be stable and easily cleaned. Hanging bird feeders e.g. peanut feeders or Nyjer seed feeders can be positioned hanging from a pole at eye level out of the reach of cats. If grey squirrels are present, feeders need to be squirrel-proofed. Gardman produce excellent Nyjer feeders with small pin-holes that minimise seeds falling to the ground. Fat balls or bird suet cake are best placed on wire hanging feeders.


Nest boxes

For birds to breed successfully they need somewhere to feed and shelter. The latter is essential protection from the elements and predators thus providing a safe refuge by day and night. Birds need somewhere cosy to breed in the Spring.


We encourage and promote the feeding of birds, combined with the introduction of nest boxes to enhance the quality of life for people via nature therapy and at the same time enhancing biodiversity in the world we share with wildlife. Feeding birds, birdwatching and doing the Birdwatch Ireland Annual Garden Bird Survey is a hobby to be enjoyed, shared and passed onto the next generation without the fear of attracting rodents. Happy birdwatching 😊


Mervyn WalshBA(Hons), HDip.EnvMgt, MRSPH

Field Biologist, Ecologica Pest Control