A bird table is a simple tray with a stand, laden with food which you put up in your garden to attract wild birds to eat from it. It is sometimes called a bird-feeder.
Many birds go hungry in winter because much of their normal food (insects, fruits, seeds) is not around in the cold season. Setting up a bird table in your garden is a welcome treat for our famished feathered friends.
The bird table will also bring a flutter of activity that will add colour and life to your winter garden. If you like to take photos, the birds can provide some nice colourful pictures for your collection.
The shape of your bird table
Some pet and garden shops sell bird tables. These come in many shapes and sizes. Some look like cottages and others look more like cathedrals! When choosing your bird table, remember that the simplest ones are really the best. The more complicated the design, the longer the birds will take to overcome their suspicion of the thing! Here's how to make a simple but successful table.
- 1 sheet of wood or plywood (marine is best) about 30x20cm - this will serve as the table top.
- 4 strips (15cm, 15cm, 25cm, 25cm) of thin wooden dowel
- 1 broomstick
- 1 small wooden block (about 6x6x6cm will do)
- 1 plastic water bottle
- + nails/screws/glue, wood preserver
How to make it
Nail, screw or glue the dowels round the edges of the table top.(Fig.1) These will keep food from rolling off the table at the slightest breeze, and serve as a perch for some birds. Being shorter than the edges (Fig. 2), the dowels will let rainwater drain away.
Coat the board with wood preservative if you can, this will extend the life of your bird table. Let it dry out well – this will take a couple of days. Don't paint or varnish, as these contain toxic chemicals and will flake and could get into the food.
Screw or nail the broomstick to the table top. If this is tricky or looks flimsy, stick a small block of wood to the base of the table, bore a round hole in its middle and fit one end of the broomstick snugly into that (Fig. 3).
Taper the other end of the broomstick and coat it with paint or tar, or stand it overnight in the wood preserver. This will protect the wood from soil damp.
Cut off the conical neck of a plastic bottle and wedge it halfway up the broomstick, wide end facing down (Fig. 1). This will keep snails from raiding your bird table.
That's it! You're done!
Find a well-lit spot in your garden, where the bird table can be observed from a distance. Stick the taper end of the broomstick into the soil and make sure it's steady - it might need some firm hammering with a mallet. MAKE SURE not to put it where cats might pounce onto it, so place it at least 2m from the nearest tree or low wall. If you don't have a soil patch, stand the bird table in a bucket of soil, sand or gravel.
Choosing your food
You don't need to go and buy bird food. Try different foods. Be imaginative. Try cake crumbs, cheese cakes (the fattier the better), crushed peanuts (not salted, thank you!), sesame seeds, raisins, biscuits, cooked rice, and halved fruits like figs, prickly pears, pomegranates etc. Avoid bread or crackers.
Also remember that a bird table isn't a compost heap, don't just scrape lunch leftovers onto it and expect birds to clean it up! You'll end up having to scrape off the mess later on!
When to use your bird table
Best time to start stocking the bird table would be late October, when insects start to die off and days start to shorten. However, once you decide to start stocking a bird table, DO try to keep your commitment at least until the following spring. It wouldn't be nice for the birds to have their precious winter food handouts drying up mid-season! You can stock it up with food as often as you like. Just scrape the top clean from time to time to keep it free from old scraps of food.
Come spring, you may stop stocking the table and let the birds return to their natural food, which should be in good supply again by then.
What birds to expect
Forget eagles! Still, a well-placed and well-stocked table will prove irresistible to a small but interesting list. These include:
- spanish sparrow (ghasfur tal-bejt) - all year round
- sardinian warbler (bufula sewda) - all year round
- robin (pitirross) - autumn/winter
- black redstart (fjamma sewda) - autumn/winter
- common starling (sturnell) - autumn/winter
- common stonechat (bucaqq tax-xitwa) - autumn/winter