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The WORST thing you can put in your garden

According to independent research, synthetic grass has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years, with market analysis reports suggesting that the industry will continue to see a global growth of $1.25 billion between 2021 and 2026. 

But wildlife experts from Vine House Farm warn that synthetic garden lawns could dramatically impact wild bird populations in the UK, placing a strain on some of the country’s already declining red-listed species. 

Nicholas Watts, a bird conservation expert, and owner of the self-sustainable Lincolnshire-based farm, said the following: 

“Even very well-kept grass provides a home to thousands of ecosystems – and is home to invertebrates like earthworms, caterpillars, slugs, and snails. 

All of these creatures are eaten by birds – particularly ground-feeding birds like Robins, Blackbirds, and Starlings. They provide vital nutrients for birds – containing fat and protein, which are both essential parts of a bird’s diet.

As well as this, soil-dwelling invertebrates contain a high water content, making them a great source of hydration for birds. This is important year-round, but particularly during hotter months. 

Having a rich source of live food in your garden is especially important during bird nesting season (which runs from March until July) when mothers will feed insects and worms and other grubs to their young. 

Synthetic lawns strip ecosystems in which invertebrates and insects are naturally present from gardens. This means that more and more wild birds are cut off from nutrition, and the health of bird populations is significantly jeopardised. In reality, this places several critically declining – or ‘red listed’ – species under strain. 

UK bird populations have been in a concerning decline over the past decade. There are some species of bird, like the Golden Oriole for example, that have been entirely lost as a breeding species within this time. Likewise, the size of the Red List has tripled since 2015, with more and more birds in decline due to a number of factors, including human population growth, loss of green space, and climate change. 

Using astroturf as an alternative to real grass is of huge concern to bird populations, and advocates of conservation. They pose a very real and potentially detrimental threat to bird breeding, and could contribute to more species declining and potentially becoming extinct this decade.”

Birds on the Red List

The Red List is created by the RSPB, using a combination of data and research from other wildlife organisations and volunteer bird watcher surveys. The List includes every bird species that is in critical decline in the UK, Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. 

The latest version of the UK Red List for birds was published in December 2021, and includes 70 birds. 

Included in this list are the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Redpoll, Linnet, House martin, Swift, Willow tit, and Turtle dove. 

5 Ways to Attract Wild Birds to your Garden

“Attracting wild birds to your garden is both hugely enjoyable and very rewarding, plus it also helps wildlife conservation and specifically helps reverse the trend of declining populations of many of our once common birds. In fact, the UK’s gardens are now considered a vital component in a much wider conservation effort.”

1. Provide a wide range of different types of bird food for garden birds

One of the most important things to bear in mind when feeding birds is that different species of bird prefer different foods. Bird species with pointed, sharp beaks – can crack into harder seeds like sunflower seeds, millet or niger seed, while soft-billed birds, like Robins, Song thrushes, and Blackbirds, are more likely to feed on de-husked seeds and softer food, such as worms and insects.

Include a variety of food types in your bird food selection; such as mixed seeds, suet and live foods. 

2. Put food sources at different levels in your garden 

In the same way that different species of birds prefer different kinds of food, they also like to feed in different ways. Some birds, like members of the tit family, perch while they eat, while others, like Robins or Chaffinches, also graze from the ground. 

Try to offer a range of options for different birds by using ground feeders, bird tables and hanging feeders. This will attract a wider range of birds to your garden and help you to provide nutrition to a wider range of species. 

3. Create a wildlife-friendly garden

Promote ecosystems to form in your garden by including as many native flowers, plants and shrubs as possible. 

Grass makes a big difference here; if you can provide longer grass, this is ideal. Trees, shrubs and bushes are great places for birds to perch, feed, and build nests, so these are also a great addition. Ultimately, the more native plants you can include the better when it comes to supporting wild birds; more plant life leads to more insect life, and this provides a rich source of food for birds.   

You could even try creating a ‘bug hotel’ – which is essentially a pile of branches, twigs and other garden waste that you can keep tucked away in the corner of your garden somewhere. This space will allow insect and other invertebrate life to thrive, which will in turn help attract and feed birds.

 4. Include a water-source for birds

Providing clean water for your birds is just as important as providing food, even during wetter and colder months of the year. 

Water sources have two main uses for birds. The first is hydration; birds need to drink clean water throughout the day and year, as well as consume moisture-rich foods in order to function. The second use of water for birds is bathing; keeping their plumage in good working condition is highly important as it ensures they’re able to fly properly and therefore aids their chances of survival. 

Bird baths are a great way to provide water sources and support birds visiting your garden. You can buy these in a range of sizes and styles depending on your garden’s size, budget and style.  

Ideally having a pond in your garden will not only provide water for birds, but will also create a wildlife habitat for birds to feed from. 

5. Offer nesting opportunities in time for spring

Nesting season starts from early March and goes well into the summer months. A great way to support wild birds is to ensure that your garden offers good nesting opportunities for them. 

While some birds prefer nesting in tree cavities, others create nests in the ground, under hedges or in other undisturbed nooks. 

You can help nesting birds by:

  • Providing nest sites in external nooks of buildings. For example, ‘swift bricks’ are built into walls for swifts and other small birds to build their nests in. 
  • Leaving leaves, twigs and branches unraked in undisturbed piles under hedges and in other nooks. This gives birds plenty of materials to start building their nests. 
  • Waiting until Autumn to prune and trim bushes and trees, when bird nesting season is over. 
  • Building and putting up your own nest boxes for birds to use, in trees or bushes.

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